What is HPV?
HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV, which cause health problems including genital warts and cancers.
How Does HPV Spread?
HPV is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. However, it is more commonly spread through vaginal or anal sex. You can still contact the virus even when the infected person isn’t showing any symptoms.
What Health Problems Does HPV Cause?
In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area. HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
How Can I Prevent HPV?
Two words – Get Vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over six months so it is important to get all three doses.
If you are an adult who didn’t get vaccinated at the recommended age you still can. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26.
The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including people living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.
Whitney Young Health will test you for HPV and vaccinate you to prevent the virus. Call to make an appointment with us at (518) 456-4471. If you have any other questions about HPV, go to http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm