Why is HPV prevention important?
HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) globally. Around 80% of us will get HPV at some point and the virus often has no visible symptoms. This means it is very easy to get and to pass on.
HPV increases your risk of developing certain cancers; it is responsible for almost all cases of cervical and anal cancers and around one in three cases of mouth, throat and penile cancers globally. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. For this reason, HPV prevention and screening programmes are usually focused on women. Both men and women are at risk of HPV-related cancer which means that we all need to think about preventing HPV.
What’s the best way to prevent against HPV infection?
Because HPV is mostly invisible and so easily passed on, the best way to prevent infection is through vaccination. There are more than 150 different strains of HPV. Vaccination protects against the types of HPV that are most likely to cause cancer. Some vaccines can also protect against genital warts.
Can I get the HPV Vaccine?
HPV vaccination policy varies from country to country. Where it is available, it is generally licensed for use in 11 to 12 year-old girls and boys. In some countries, vaccination programmes start at age nine. Current research tells us that vaccinating before young people are sexualy active offers the best protection from HPV-related cancer. In some countries, adults may still be able to access HPV vaccinations, however the age limit of this varies from country to country and depends on local policy. Some countries now offer vaccination to anyone under the age of 45 in order to protect against the high-risk strains of HPV associated with cancer. You might also be eligible for vaccination if you are at an increased risk of HPV infection; if you have an immunocompromising condition, for example HIV; if you have received an organ transplant, you may be also eligible. Vaccination programmes in some countries also offer the HPV vaccine to transgender people up until 45 years old.
Ask your healthcare provider if you can be vaccinated.