HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus that infects the skin of the vagina, penis, anus, and throat areas.
HPV is transmitted through skin to skin contact during sexual contact. Using a condom or dental dam during sexual activity 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, and most cases will just go away on their own. Lower-risk strains of HPV can cause genital warts, but some higher-risk strains can lead to cancers of the genital, anal, or throat area if they’re not detected.
If you are thinking about becoming sexually active or already are, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent or detect HPV. Higher-risk strains of HPV are detected in females through a test called a Pap smear. This is a swab of the cervix that females start to get regularly at the age of 21. Unfortunately, there is currently no test to detect the high risk strains of HPV in males.
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 that protects against many of the high-risk strains of HPV. We need parental consent to administer the vaccine, so if you are under 18 and are interested, talk to your parents about it!
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.