Since there are so many strains of HPV, each strain is given a number. This is
then referred to as an HPV type. HPV gets its name from the fact that many strains
cause warts or papillomas.
Warts that appear on the hands, face and feet are included in the HPV family
group. These strains are acquired from direct contact with an infected person
or a contaminated surface.
The strains of HPV most people are concerned with are the ones classified as
sexually transmitted. HPV genital infections are currently the number one most
common STD in the world.
According to the CDC, approximately 20 million people worldwide are currently
infected with HPV. By age 50, at least 80% of women will have acquired genital
HPV is also referred to as a ‘silent’ STD. Although some strains
do cause genital warts-most strains have no symptoms at all. This is what makes
HPV so contagious. With no symptoms, you unknowingly pass the virus on to your
The HPV virus lives on the skin and mucus membranes. These mucus membranes
include: the mouth, nose, vulva/vagina, anus, penis and cervix.
Diagnosis of HPV generally occurs with abnormal pap smears and visual diagnosis
of genital HPV warts. There is currently no testing available in the United
States for men, even though men can carry and pass on this infection.
There is also no current cure for HPV. Most times, the HPV infection clears
up and goes away on its own.
The only way to completely prevent HPV infections is to abstain from any sexual
contact. Having a long-term relationship with a person who has had few to no
sexual partners decreases your chances of acquiring HPV, but there is no way
to determine if your partner is already infected.
On June 8th, 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of
Gardasil, the 1st vaccine of its kind to help prevent four strains of HPV. This
vaccine would have to be given before a young girl becomes sexually active.
The current target age range is 9-12 years of age. Several states currently
have bills pending that deal with the question of should all girls be vaccinated.
Gardasil is made to help protect girls and women from high risk strains 16 and
18, known to develop cervical cancer and strains 6 and 11, commons strains that
develop genital warts.
Gardasil is constantly being monitored as the long term effects and effectiveness
has not been established.
The best defense for your health is routine yearly pap tests. Early detection
of cervical changes is best. It is these cases that can easily be treated and
have the best success rates. Since HPV in young women is so common, and abnormal
cervical cells are not, women are not routinely tested for HPV during g a pap
test. The HPV test is generally only given to women over the age of 30.
If you’re acquired HPV, remember that you’ve done nothing wrong.
Having HPV means you’ve been exposed to a common virus.
The types of HPV that cause warts on your hands and feet do not cause genital
warts or cervical changes. The same rings true for genital warts. These HPV
strains do not generally spread to other areas of the body.
Most sexually active partners share HPV until the immune system gets rid of
the virus or suppresses it. Since there are so many strains of HPV, becoming
immune to one strain does not protect you from another.
It is also important to remember that a diagnosis of HPV is not a reliable
and positive indicator of unfaithfulness.
Having HPV is not the end of the world and it should not affect your life.
Having routine pap smears to detect early changes in your cervix is something
every woman should already be doing. Every major medical authority in the world
supports routine cervical testing.