Human Papillomavirus, shortened as HPV, is a prevalent STI, affecting millions of sexually active persons. There are different strains of HPV, about a hundred. A few of these HPV strains are harmless, while the harmful strains may lead to cancer (cervical or anal cancer) or genital warts.
Most cases of cervical cancer are as a result of HPV infections, and the virus usually stays dormant in the cervix for years before it causes cancer.
Most times, HPV infection has no visible symptoms for years. Sometimes, the infected person may have warts on their mouth, anus, genital area and other body parts. This is one of the obvious sign of an HPV infection. Most high-risk HPV infections do not show symptoms for years until the later stages of the infection when it has caused severe health problems.
Experts advise that all women should get regular Pap tests to check for HPV in their cervix. The Pap test identifies for abnormal cells in the cervix, which may develop into cervical cancer.
Men do not have a routine test to check for HPV, but the healthcare provider can check for wart with a simple test. Men who have sex with men are at a high risk of contracting HPV, and medical experts advise men in this category to have regular anal Pap tests to check for HPV.
Causes of HPV
Direct contact with a cut, abrasion, or tear on the skin of an infected person can lead to an infection. A common means of HPV transmission is skin-to-skin contact, and touching warts on the skin or genitals of an infected person can lead to an HPV infection.
You can contract the HPV that causes genital warts by engaging in sexual activity (anal, oral, or vaginal sex) with an infected person. Pregnant women who are already infected with genital warts causing-HPV can transmit it to their baby during childbirth.
A high-risk factor for contracting HPV is having multiple sex partners or having sex with someone who has multiple sex partners. Other risk factors include age (adolescents and teens), and a weakened immune system.
Prevention of HPV
Presently, there is no treatment for HPV infection, but you can manage the infection and get treatment to reduce the viral load to avoid infection of others. However, prevention of HPV is possible. It involves the administration of 2 doses of HPV vaccine between 9 – 14 years before the child is exposed to any sexual activity.
A significant factor that contributes to the rapid spread of HPV is lack of awareness, but, medical experts are trying their best to educate people on the dangers of HPV infections. The awareness aims to teach people that HPV is preventable and highlights the measures of prevention.
The effect of some HPV infection can also be managed. For example, getting regular smear screening can help identify abnormal cells which may be a result of an HPV infection. Identifying these abnormal cells can help prevent cervical cancer.
Ensure you attend your regular Pap test and get your HPV vaccine if you did not get it as a child. If you are residing in London, book here for your private HPV vaccine today.