Protect Yourself From HPV

Human papillomavirus – also known as HPV – is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It’s so common that nearly all sexually active people will get it at some point during their lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year there are more than 43 million infections in American men and women.

HPV is usually harmless and goes away on its own, but in some cases it can lead to long-term health issues, such as genital warts or cervical cancer. According to the CDC, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 36,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year.

There are more than 200 types of HPV with about 40 of those affecting the genital area, throat and mouth. These are the types of HPV that are primarily spread during sexual contact.

Although just being sexually active can increase your risk for HPV, there are a few other factors that can lead to a higher chance of getting the infection. These include:

  • Having more sexual partners or having sex with a person who has had multiple partners
  • Age – genital warts most often occur in adolescents and young adults
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having damaged skin with areas that are open or punctured
  • Touching someone’s warts
  • Coming in contact with surfaces contaminated with HPV

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help lower your risk of contracting HPV.

One of the best prevention tools is the HPV vaccine, which provides protection against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. It is given in a series of shots over the course of several months. All people ages 9 to 45 can get the HPV vaccine, but it’s especially recommended for children around the ages of age 11 or 12 so they’re fully protected before becoming sexually active. Another way to lower your risk for HPV is to use protection, such as a condom, when engaging in sexual activities.

If you’re interested in learning more about the HPV vaccine, talk to your personal doctor. Together you can decide if getting the vaccine is the right choice for you. To find a personal doctor near you, talk to your health insurance provider.