Protect Yourself Against HPV’s
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus and is currently the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 100 types of HPV and forty of these types affect the genital area. HPV is extremely common affecting about half of all men and 3 out of 4 women at one point in their lives.
Most people infected with HPV are unaware they have the virus. Many types of HPV have no harmful effects at all. Others cause genital warts, which are soft wart like growths around the genital area in both males and females. Other types of HPV cause cancer, mostly cervical cancer in women. You can get HPV by having sex; vaginally, anally, orally, or simply from genital contact.
The best way to prevent getting HPV is to not have sex at all. If you choose to do so, make sure you use condoms every time. Another way of preventing HPV is getting the HPV Vaccine. There are 2 types of vaccines; Gardasil (approved for both males and females) and Cervarix (for women ONLY). Both protect against types of HPV which cause most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccines consist of 3 shots in 6 months. Common side effects of these vaccines include bruising, itching, redness, swelling or tenderness around the spot where the shot is given. There is also no chance of getting HPV from the vaccine. These vaccines will not treat HPV if you already have it, they will only prevent a new infection. Each dose of the vaccine costs about $125 and is covered by most insurance companies.
HPV is detected through a pap smear, a test where cells are scraped from the cervix. If HPV is present laboratories can provide information regarding the type of HPV; high risk or low risk. Most HPV goes away on its own after a couple years but if high risk HPV is present, treatment is usually necessary. There is no test to find HPV in men, but dermatologists may be able to visualize small wart-like growths on the penis. If you see warts you should contact your healthcare provider. While most men will never develop health problems from it, some types of HPV have been linked to cancer of the penis and anus. For more information or to be evaluated contact the New Britain Health Department at (860) 612-2771.