While having your regular women’s wellness exam or having a routine check-up at your doctor’s office, you might be asked about HPV or notice a sign spreading HPV awareness. Commercials now market HPV vaccines, and even some magazines have HPV awareness campaigns. However, in spite of the literature and regular encounters with HPV, very few individuals actually know what HPV actually is.

What Exactly Is HPV?

HPV is the human papillomavirus and is actually a group of related viruses. The name HPV derives from the warts, also known as papillomas, which certain HPV types may cause. There are more than 150 viruses in the HPV group, and each is given a specific number known as the HPV type. More than 40 different types of HPV can infect male and female genital areas, and some types of HPV can cause cancer, with cervical cancer being the most prevalent.

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How Do You Contract HPV?

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and is so common that most men and women who are sexually active get HPV at some point in their lives. A person doesn’t have to have multiple sexual partners to contract HPV either. Having intimate contact or sex with just one person can result in HPV.

HPV is most commonly contracted through sexual intercourse; however, HPV can also be contracted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex can all serve as avenues for contracting HPV.

How Do You Know if You Have HPV?

Some types of HPV cause warts which produce visible signs that an individual may have HPV. Unfortunately, not all types of HPV have visible signs or symptoms. Individuals who are infected can even develop symptoms years after contracting HPV which make it even more difficult to rely on visual symptoms.

The best way to determine whether or not you have HPV is through regular testing. A person should be tested after having sexual intercourse with each partner, even if they have been previously tested. A HPV urine test can provide accurate and quick results to those wanting to know whether or not they have one of the 13 types of high-risk HPV, such as those responsible for cervical cancer.

Is There a Cure?

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for HPV. Although HPV is not curable, some symptoms are treatable through oral medications and other medical treatments. Ultimately, the best way to avoid HPV is through prevention.

How Can I Avoid HPV?

HPV is most commonly contracted through vaginal or anal intercourse. To prevent yourself from contracting HPV, always have protected sex or monogamous sex with a partner who has been tested and is clear of any STDs or HIV. However, sexually active individuals need to remember that HPV is contracted through skin-to-skin contact. Because of how easily HPV can be spread, accurate testing prior to intimacy is the best way to prevent contracting HPV from a partner.

Women can also choose to have a HPV vaccine. This vaccine series should be completed before a woman reaches the age of 26, and may not be right for everyone. Women interested in having the HPV vaccination should contact their OB/GYN or regular physician to make sure they are healthy and are not at-risk for any side effects from the vaccination.

Although common, HPV should still be taken seriously. HPV can result in cancers and other conditions which are not easily treated. Prevention is truly the best way to avoid contracting HPV. To protect yourself from HPV, regularly use protection, have regular testing conducted, and have honest and open conversations with your physicians and partners.

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