HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that infects the skin of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat areas.
HPV is transmitted through sexual skin to skin contact. Using a condom or dental dam during sexual contact can reduce the chance of transmission.
Symptoms & Complications
Most of the time, a person cannot see or feel HPV. Many people who have HPV don’t know it. HPV can cause genital warts (low risk strains) or can lead to cancer (high risk strains) in the gential, anal, or throat area.
If you are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are, it’s very important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent or detect HPV. High risk strains of HPV are detected during what is called a pap test. This is a preventative exam female bodied individuals start to get at the age of 21. Currently there is no test to detect the high risk strain of HPV in male bodied individuals.
HPV is not curable but it is treatable. Genital warts can be removed by a medical provider, but they may come back. With regular screenings, cancer can be prevented and treated when caught early. The majority (90%) of people who get HPV will fight it off in two years on their own! It’s very important to stay healthy and keep your immune system strong to fight off the virus in case you become infected.
There is a vaccine for HPV called Gardasil that protects against the four strains that cause most genital warts and cervical cancers, as well as other cancers in both females and males. Read more about the Gardasil vaccine here.
For detailed information on each infection, check of the Center for Disease Control. You can also ask us an anonymous question right on our website. If you are experiencing symptoms of an STI, think you’ve been exposed to an STI, or want to talk to a professional, call Teen Clinic to make an appointment with a qualified health care provider.