The Five Most Important Things You Should Know About: HPV

1) That’s the Human papillomavirus. No, virus isn’t a separate word. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection, but most people who have HPV don’t even know they have it. There are over 40 strains of HPV which affect everything from the nose, to the mouth, to the genitals, sometimes in the form of oh-so-sexy warts. A few specific strains of the virus are the ones that can lead to cervical cancer. The strains of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer.
2) As I stated before, most people who have HPV have no idea, because, unless you’ve got the warty kind, there’s relatively no symptoms or signs, especially in men. I have/had HPV, specifically the cancer-causing kind. The way I found out was I had a abnormal pap spear that revealed that I had cervical dysplasia. I ended up needing to get a biopsy, which removed the pre-cancerous cells chillin’ on my cervix. Gone untreated, those cells could have turned into cancer, which is why it’s very important for women to get regularly schmeared.

3) HPV often goes away on it’s own. There are low-risk types of HPV (the ones that cause warts) and high-risk types of HPV (those that cause cancer), but in 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears the HPV infection naturally within two years. Even still, if you let HPV go unmonitored, it can absolutely lead to cancer, even if the HPV goes away on its own. My HPV is supposedly gone according to my gyno, but I still make trips to see her every six months, just in case.

4) HPV is very easily spread, which is why so people dang people have it. And it spreads even when the carrier practices safe sex, as condoms are only about 70% effective when it comes to preventing the transmission of HPV.

5) Two HPV-vaccines have been approved by the FDA, Gardasil and Cervarix, both of which are preventative vaccines, recommended for women who are 9 to 25 years old and have not contracted HPV. That said, once my HPV went away, my gynecologist had me get the Gardasil shots, even though I was 27 at the time. Chances are, your doctor is probably flexible too. []