Do YOU know the ABC’s of HPV?
Most of us have at least heard the term “HPV” before, but how many of us know what it is? More importantly, how many of us know how to protect ourselves from it??
HPV stands for “Human Papilloma Virus”. This is the most common sexually transmitted infection; about 80% of sexually active people will have some form of HPV in their lifetime.
BUT WAIT! Don’t freak out just yet—first, let’s break it down….
There are 100+ strains of HPV. Most strains cause harmless warts we see on hands or feet. Other strains are sexually transmitted and the majority of these strains will clear up on their own within two years. The individual probably will never even know they had it. Although some higher risk strains can have lasting effects - such as genital warts and certain cancers such as cancers of the cervix, rectum or throat.
So how can you get it? HPV is transmitted through unprotected sex and intimate skin-to-skin contact, like genitals touching.
You can reduce your risk of getting HPV by using condoms and dentals dams for all types of sex (vaginal, anal, oral… you get the picture), to provide a barrier between our skin and bodily fluids and our partners’.
Because HPV is a virus, it cannot be cured. BUT it can be treated! If you have genital warts, they can be removed at Family Planning Service. If you have the strains of HPV that can cause cancer, don’t stress…let’s say it together: “DON’T STRESS! HPV-related cancers, if caught early on, have a greater chance of preventing further progression.
Routine exams are so important to check for HPV. How do check for HPV you ask?
For females, a Pap test (AKA- Pap smear), can check the cervix for anything out of the norm. Having an abnormal Pap test does NOT mean that you have cervical cancer. Further testing and follow-up will be done to give an accurate diagnosis. Anyone who is engaging in unprotected oral or anal sex should let their health care providers know, so that those areas can be checked as well.
But wait- there’s good news! There is a vaccine for HPV called the Gardasil-9! This is the only vaccine that protects against 9 high risk strains of HPV that are responsible for the majority of HPV-related cancers and genital warts.
If you are between the ages of 19-26, you can receive the Gardasil 9 Vaccine at either of our clinical locations- 113 East Taft Rd in North Syracuse and 301 Slocum Ave in Syracuse. If you would like the vaccine for yourself or your child and you are not between the ages of 19-26, talk with your primary care provider, you still may be able to receive it.
Have more questions? Go to our “Ask An Educator” tab to ask your question anonymously and confidentially!