Have you ever heard of HPV? Whether you heard about these
three letters or are clueless why it has been brought up during health class, it’s
a serious topic that you should know about. Find out what HPV is, why it’s hard
to know if someone else has HPV and why it’s so important for you to protect yourself
against contracting it.
What is HPV?
HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the virus that causes genital
warts and can lead to cervical cancer and other specific cancers. It is the most
common sexually transmitted disease. Young adults ages 15 to 24 years old have the
highest risk for getting infected.
How Do You Get It?
You can get HPV from sexual contact with someone who already
has it. You can get it through vaginal, anal and oral sex — whether or not your
partner even knows he or she has it. This includes any skin-to-skin genital contact.
Unprotected intercourse with more than one partner creates the biggest risk for
getting it, but any sexual genital contact can put you at risk.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Getting It?
The best way to avoid HPV and any sexually transmitted infection
or disease is, of course, not to have sexual contact at all. When you decide to
become sexually active, it’s preferred to stick with only one partner for life.
Select a partner who has been tested and is proven to be HPV and STD-free. When
you do become sexually active, protect yourself and get regular checkups and pap
tests to make sure that you are clean as well. Using a condom during intercourse
reduces the risk of getting HPV; however remember that the infection can spread
beyond the area covered by a condom. In this case, you can still be exposed to the
There are vaccines that can be given to prevent many types
of HPV. These vaccines can't prevent all types of HPV, but they can prevent some
of the most dangerous, cancer-causing types. Ask your gynecologist if you’re a candidate
for the vaccine. If you think you may be at risk for having HPV, talk to your doctor
How Do You Know if You Have It?
Most HPV infections are invisible, don't have any symptoms,
and most people don't even know they have it. That's why it's important to get regular
checkups and let your doctor know when you decide to become sexually active. Your
doctor can also complete regular screenings to prevent cervical cancer or find it
early using the Pap test (or Pap smear) and/or an HPV test. Although it’s an uncomfortable
conversation to have, it's important to get the necessary tests to make sure you
While it’s not always easy to tell if you have HPV, one of
the visible symptoms is genital warts. They often start as small bumps, alone or
in clusters, around the genitals. As they get bigger, they look more like cauliflower.
They can be itchy or can become irritated. They are REALLY contagious infecting
most people who come into contact with them.
How is it Treated?
The HPV virus itself can't be cured, but the problems it
can cause can be addressed with treatments. Warts often fade away by themselves,
but can be treated by a doctor. If you do have genital warts, it's important to
get treatment to prevent future outbreaks.
You’re getting older, which means that you’re going to have
to start taking more responsibility for yourself. Be informed and make decisions
to keep yourself healthy.
Read facts about hpv and learn about std prevention at BeingGirl.com.