Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus. It is passed through genital or skin contact. Even though it affects one in every four people, most people do not know much about HPV. However, HPV may go away on its own without causing any health problems.
Who is at risk?
Those who have many sexual partners or are with a person who has a history of multiple sexual partners, are more likely to get Human Papilloma Virus- HPV.
Anyone who has ever had genital contact with another person may have HPV – and pass it on without knowing. There may not be any signs of contracting the virus hence the need to get a HPV vaccine. There are approved vaccines that prevent diseases caused by HPV. You can visit your gynecologist and ask about a HPV vaccine. However, it is advisable to first get tested. There is no specific “HPV” test. However, it can be detected through tests for infections caused by infections. A pap smear test is the most effective. It tests for the type of HPV that causes cervical cancer.
Weakened immune systems put you at a bigger risk for contracting Human Papilloma Virus HPV and so the related infections, including Cervical cancer. A weak immune system may be a result of poor health or contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.
Age is also a risk factor. A sexually active teen or adult are at a higher risk for contracting HPV. Common warts, on other occasions also occur in children. This contraction of HPV is usually as a result of contact with an infected care giver. HPV is passed through the openings on the skin. If a child comes into contact with bodily fluid, or discharge from warts from an infected person, then they will contract HPV.
Having multiple sexual partners puts you at great risk for not only HPV and HPV related infections like Genital Warts and long-term effects like cancer, but HIV/AIDS too.
Why get tested? Why get a vaccine?
We all want to protect ourselves from infections and their adverse effects on our long-term physical well-being. Physical tests and vaccines are a sure way to stay in the clear especially if we are sexually active. There are no tests to find out if a person has HPV, but there are indicators. Genital warts and results from a pap smear test are the two indicators.
Firstly, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people will contract it.
Secondly, HPV causes genital warts. Genital warts are the most easily recognized symptom of HPV infection. The types of HPV that cause genital warts are low-risk HPV and are not the same ones that cause cancer. Genital warts are treatable. They can also disappear when left untreated. However, untreated warts do not become cancerous. Most people find out they have contracted HPV when they are diagnosed with genital warts.
HPV causes cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, or anus. Most of these problems are caused by types 6, 11, 16 or 18. It is rare to die from these types of cancer when they are caught early. Which is why annual it is crucial for women to go for annual pap smear tests.
HPV may also go away on its own without treatment.
The World Health Organization describes HPV as the cause for the infection and persistence of cervical cancer. In order to fight cervical cancer, we must fight HPV. The fight starts with education. Like in all avenues in life, knowledge is power.
It is paramount to educate young people from an early age about the dangers of HPV and the long-term effects of the virus. Teaching that abstinence and practicing safe sex protects you against HIV/AIDS or unwanted pregnancies, is not enough if we do not add the very common virus responsible for cancerous growths and in the long-term.
Sex education should include sensitization and caution against irresponsible sexual behavior as well as the need to vaccinate against HPV. It is important to note, however, that a HPV vaccination does not protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases not caused by HPV, neither does it protects you from HIV/AIDS.