HPV (human papillomavirus) is a shockingly common virus; you have a very real chance of contracting it in your lifetime; you should get the vaccination against it, Gardasil.
Okay, there’s a couple more things you should know about HPV, but you’ll be better off than most if you at least understand that. But with something like this, you probably want to know everything you can. Many will be exposed before they’ve left their parents’ homes, so it’s important that you take control of your own health, no matter how old you are.
1. HPV is everywhere.
Okay, it’s not literally everywhere. But damn close. 14 million Americans get HPV every year; about 79 million Americans have it now. That’s almost a quarter of all Americans. So there’s a good chance that if you’re sexually active, you already have it.
2. HPV is transmitted similarly to other STIs.
HPV is transmitted through sexual contact, just like many other STIs. Similarly, HPV doesn’t always show symptoms, sometimes for years, so it can be very difficult to pinpoint where you contracted it. The only real sign outside of a medical diagnosis are genital warts, and they don’t always appear.
Condoms and dental dams can protect against it, but they are not as effective against HPV as they are against other STIs. You can also protect against it by remaining in a monogamous relationship. However, people in non-monogamous relationships are more likely to test for STIs. Just know the risks of what you’re getting into.
3. HPV can lead to cancer.
This is the real danger of HPV. The CDC states that most cases of HPV do go away on their own, HPV can raise the risk of several different types of cancer, especially cervical. Actually, HPV is present in all cases of cervical cancer.
4. HPV affects men too.
Because HPV drastically contributes to cervical cancer, most people think that it’s exclusively a women’s issue. HPV rarely causes symptoms in men, but they still have good reasons to care. Putting aside the fact that many men have wives, mothers, sisters, and friends that they care about, HPV can also lead to anal and penile cancer.
5. There is a vaccine to protect you against HPV.
Gardasil can be taken by anyone, but it’s more effective if children are vaccinated before their first exposure, ideally at ages 11-12 for both boys and girls. However, insurance will cover it up until the age of 26.
You can get it when you’re older, but there are two significant drawbacks. One, you’ve likely already been exposed. Two, insurance will not cover it, and it is spendy. However, it may be worth it to prevent future infection or cancer.
6. HPV doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
It’s a virus that the majority of us contract at some point. If you have the opportunity, please take the steps to protect yourself. On the other hand, if your doctor confirms you have HPV, it’s not the end of the world. There are treatments to protect from cervical cancer and to remove warts, if necessary. Most cases of HPV resolve on their own, remember. Just because you have it once doesn’t mean that you always will.
Always protect yourself and do the necessary precautions to keep you safe from HPV and other STDs. Get yourself tested regularly and make sure you know your partner by making he/she gets tested in the reg as well. Always take care of you!