A Few Facts About Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the shortened name for human Papillomavirus which consists of more than 150 virus’ strains. A number is given to each HPV virus to identify its type and named after the papillomas or warts that are caused by some HPV types. There are some HPV types that can cause cervical cancer and other cancers. Infection of the genital areas of men and women are caused by more than 40 types of HPV. However, there are available vaccines that can protect against infection from the most common HPV types.

Close skin-to-skin contact can transmit HPV. Someone infected with the virus can infect you with HPV through oral, vaginal, and anal sex. It is through anal or vaginal sex that the infection gets commonly spread. The most common STI or sexually transmitted infection is HPV. It is so common that almost every sexually active individual has been infected with it even when they were unaware of the infection.

HPV can affect the moist membranes and skin of the body including

  • The anus
  • The lining of the throat and mouth
  • The vagina
  • The vulva
  • The cervix

Changes in the cells in the lining of the throat and mouth and of the cervix can be developed by some HPV types. These are classified as HPVs that causes high-risk health problems. The cell changes are called dysplasia which has a high-level risk of turning cancerous.

Verrucas and warts are caused by other HPV types. The HPV types 6 and 11 are oftentimes called the genital wart virus or the wart virus. The genital areas, particularly around the anus, and the feet and hands are the common spots for the growth of verrucas and warts. They can also be found on any area of the body. The verrucas and warts HPV types are referred to as low risk as they seldom develop changes in the cell which could cause cancer.

Skin contact with an infected person can transmit the HPV type that affects the skin. Sexual activity such as oral sex and open mouth kissing can be infected with the HPV type that affects the throat and mouth. During sex where close contact skin-to-skin happens is also the way to get a genital HPV infection. Multiple sex partners increase the risk for getting infected with HPV.

Genital HPV can infect a person for a long time without showing any signs or symptoms. A cervical screening showing you have the virus may make you think that your life long partner has been unfaithful and given you the infection. Acquiring HPV does not mean that your partner or you have been unfaithful. There is no way of finding out the exact time you’ve had the virus which you or your partner could have acquired in past relationships years ago.

Cervical screening done on a regular basis will be the best protection against HPV types that causes cancer. The screening will be able to detect abnormal cell changes before they turn cancerous. Cervical screening is more important for women who have low or weak immune systems that may be the result of medications for another health condition.