I remember hearing about HPV during undergrad and wondering what it was, I also remember all the commercials and nurse practitioners telling us to get shots. Hearing how HPV is, a disease, it's cancer, or you could die. But what exactly is HPV and how does one get or prevent it?
So this is what I know about HPV:
It stands for Human papillomavirus and is one of the most common sexual transmitted diseases in the US. According to the CDC, it's a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type, with about 70 million Americans infected and there aren't definite symptoms that arise when you have the virus.
What I don't understand: why don't we talk about HPV anymore? What happened to all those commercials, those warning signs, or people telling us to be careful. Why treat HPV as if its a trend?
HPV is a disease that knows, no gender, race, ethnicity, or age and can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It affects all of us, anyone can get the disease, even if you have had sex with just one person (Not a scare tactic). Most HPV infections go away by themselves and don't cause cancer. But abnormal cells can develop when high-risk types of HPV don't go away, but health problems such as genital warts and cervical cancers can develop because of the virus and can affect the mouth and throat via oral sex.
HPV infections can cause:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men;
- and cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx) in women and men.
Like I said before, because the virus has no visible signs, many carriers are unaware that the virus is in them. It's advised that boys and girls as young as, 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated, latest for women is 26 and men 21. Also, having regular check-ups and sharing your sexual history as well as asking for the HPV screening test is advised. Preventative Measures: The US vaccine series requires three shots given over six months, using protection i.e Latex condoms, dental dams, and talk to your health care provider about optional protective measures. Every year, about 1700 women and around 9000 men are affected and though talking about sex and protection is a taboo, STI's like HPV is real and talking to your health care provider and asking questions about your sexual health is another way to protect yourself and your body.
American Sexual Health Association: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/hpv/
HPV Test: http://www.thehpvtest.com/
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