HPV FAQ

What is HPV?

HPV stands for “human papillomavirus. There are around 200 types of HPV and many are sexually transmitted. Some HPV types only infect the genital region, some can cause warts and others can cause life-threatening cancers such as cervical cancer and cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva and throat.

How do I get HPV?

HPV only infects skin cells and is spread through skin-to-skin contact. The HPV types that infect the genital region, anus and throat are spread through sexual contact.

How can I avoid getting HPV?

Avoiding HPV entirely can be difficult- more than 80% of sexually active people get at least one genital HPV infection at some point in their lives! But there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk 1) If you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from the vaccine, get vaccinated. Vaccination prevents the most dangerous HPV infections and some vaccines also prevent genital warts. 2) Consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of getting HPV. 3) reduce the number of sexual partners that you have.

How can I avoid giving my partner HPV?

It may not be possible to entirely avoid spreading HPV. But there are a few things you could do to reduce the risk: 1) Get vaccinated if you are eligible for the vaccine, or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it; 2) Use condoms for all sexual contact; 3) Get screened for cervical cancer if you are eligible. Apart from identifying pre-cancers, HPV screening is sometimes carried out at the same time. 4) See your health care provider if you are concerned that you have genital warts or other signs of HPV infection; 5) talk to your partner about HPV vaccination, screening, and condoms.

How do I get tested for HPV?

HPV testing of specimens taken from the cervix may be available for some women as part of being screened for cervical cancer. There is no HPV testing for men, and there are no blood tests for HPV.

If I get HPV will I get cancer?

Only a small fraction of people who get HPV develop cancer, so having HPV does not mean that you will get cancer! However, it is important to reduce the risk of getting HPV by being vaccinated, if you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it, and getting screened for cervical cancer.

I've had the HPV vaccine, do I still need to be screened?

While the vaccine significantly reduces your risk of HPV-related cancers, women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to have cervical screening. Talk to your healthcare provider about the screening policies in your area.

If I have contact with someone who has genital warts will I get HPV?

Genital warts do contain a large amount of HPV that can be spread, so there is a good chance that you could get it. Not everyone who gets HPV gets genital warts, but you should talk to your healthcare provider about screening or vaccination. If you do develop genital warts, you should be treated for these. Effective treatments for genital warts are available for both men and women.

I’m a boy-should I be concerned about HPV?

Yes- boys and girls, men and women are all at risk for HPV- many HPV types are sexually transmitted! HPV can cause genital warts in boys as well as cancers of the anus, penis and throat. Boys can also spread HPV to their sexual partners, so avoiding getting it in the first place is a great idea. If you can, get vaccinated! Use condoms consistently and consider limiting your sexual exposure by reducing your number of sexual partners.

I’m over 26 years of age, should I get vaccinated?

Some people over the age of 26 years may benefit from HPV vaccination. In many countries, HPV vaccination may be given to women up to age 45 years, and this applies to men as well in some countries. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether the vaccine is right for you.

I’ve never had sex-should I get screened for HPV?

If you’ve never had sexual contact, your risk of getting HPV is so low that it would probably not be worthwhile to get tested.

I was screened and don’t have HPV-does that mean I’m not at risk of HPV related cancer?

It means that your risk of developing cancer in the near future is very low. However, you may still need to be screened in the future, depending on the screening policies in your area. As long as you are sexually active, you are at risk of HPV infection, along with a small risk of cancer.

Are there any lifestyle changes I can take to reduce my risk of getting HPV?

Yes! You can reduce your risk of getting HPV by getting vaccinated if you are eligible, using condoms and reducing the number of sexual partners that you have. You can also reduce your risk of getting cancer if you’ve already been infected with HPV by getting screened if you are eligible, and by not smoking.

Do condoms prevent HPV?

Condoms partially reduce the risk of infection because they cover (protect) only partially the skin of the genital tract. The more consistent the use of condoms, the higher the amount of protection. Condom use 100% of the time reduces the risk of spreading HPV by about 70%. Less frequent use means less protection.

How does HPV lead to cancer?

Once infected, the body may or may not clear HPV infection. If the body fails to clear the infection, long-term persistence may result in pre-cancerous changes. If left untreated, some of these changes will evolve over time into cancer. Screening and treating pre-cancers greatly reduces the risk of developing cancer.

My partner has told me that s/he has HPV. Does that mean I have it too?

Not necessarily, but HPV infection usually affects both partners within a few months. HPV is largely invisible, but if there are signs of HPV, i.e., genital warts, you should talk to your doctor. Because you, or your partner could have HPV without knowing it, if you are a sexually active woman, it makes sense to take up cervical screening opportunities that are offered. In some cases, routine screening includes testing for HPV in your cervix. There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet, but it is important to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells found as part of the screening process. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether HPV vaccination is right for you. There are no standardized HPV testing or screening procedures for men.

I have HIV, can I still get the HPV vaccine?

Yes. HIV-positive individuals will respond to the vaccine in a similar way those individuals who do not have HIV. Vaccination of HIV-positive and other immunosuppressed individuals is highly recommended up to the age of 26 years because their increased risk of cancers dues to HPV. Some HIV-positive individuals may benefit from vaccination after age 26, and you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Can you treat HPV infections?

There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet. Genital warts should also be treated and there are some very effective treatments available for both men and women. It is very important to talk to your doctor about any concerning symptoms and to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells that may be found as part of a screening process.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for “human papillomavirus. There are around 200 types of HPV and many are sexually transmitted. Some HPV types only infect the genital region, some can cause warts and others can cause life-threatening cancers such as cervical cancer and cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva and throat.

How can I avoid getting HPV?

Avoiding HPV entirely can be difficult- more than 80% of sexually active people get at least one genital HPV infection at some point in their lives! But there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk 1) If you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from the vaccine, get vaccinated. Vaccination prevents the most dangerous HPV infections and some vaccines also prevent genital warts. 2) Consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of getting HPV. 3) reduce the number of sexual partners that you have.

How do I get tested for HPV?

HPV testing of specimens taken from the cervix may be available for some women as part of being screened for cervical cancer. There is no HPV testing for men, and there are no blood tests for HPV.

If I get HPV will I get cancer?

Only a small fraction of people who get HPV develop cancer, so having HPV does not mean that you will get cancer! However, it is important to reduce the risk of getting HPV by being vaccinated, if you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it, and getting screened for cervical cancer.

I've had the HPV vaccine, do I still need to be screened?

While the vaccine significantly reduces your risk of HPV-related cancers, women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to have cervical screening. Talk to your healthcare provider about the screening policies in your area.

If I have contact with someone who has genital warts will I get HPV?

Genital warts do contain a large amount of HPV that can be spread, so there is a good chance that you could get it. Not everyone who gets HPV gets genital warts, but you should talk to your healthcare provider about screening or vaccination. If you do develop genital warts, you should be treated for these. Effective treatments for genital warts are available for both men and women.

Should my son be vaccinated for HPV?

Yes- both boys and girls, men and women are all at risk for HPV- it’s sexually transmitted! HPV can cause genital warts in boys as well as cancers of the anus, penis and throat. Boys can also spread HPV to their sexual partners, so avoiding getting it in the first place is a great idea. If you can, get your children vaccinated!

I was screened and don’t have HPV-does that mean I’m not at risk of HPV related cancer?

It means that your risk of developing cancer in the near future is very low. However, you may still need to be screened in the future, depending on the screening policies in your area. As long as you are sexually active, you are at risk of HPV infection, along with a small risk of cancer.

Do condoms prevent HPV?

Condoms partially reduce the risk of infection because they cover (protect) only partially the skin of the genital tract. The more consistent the use of condoms, the higher the amount of protection. Condom use 100% of the time reduces the risk of spreading HPV by about 70%. Less frequent use means less protection.

Is the HPV vaccine safe for my child?

Yes. The HPV vaccines have been extensively and independently evaluated. All scientific evidence shows that the HPV vaccines are extremely safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) and virtually all countries in the world now recommend HPV vaccination. With over 200 million doses distributed, no significant side effects have been identified other than temporary reactions at the injection site.

How does HPV lead to cancer?

Once infected, the body may or may not clear HPV infection. If the body fails to clear the infection, long-term persistence may result in pre-cancerous changes. If left untreated, some of these changes will evolve over time into cancer. Screening and treating pre-cancers greatly reduces the risk of developing cancer.

My daughter was vaccinated, does she still need to attend cervical screening?

Vaccinated girls may still need some form of screening to protect against the rarer HPV types than can cause cancer and are not addressed by the vaccine. However vaccinated girls have a much lower probability of developing pre-cancers and this could reduce the number of screenings and potential surgical treatments your daughter (and any young women you care about) might need.

If I have HPV while pregnant, will it affect my baby?

HPV is not easily spread from mother to infants. On rare occasions, babies born to mothers who have genital warts due to HPV types (HPV 6 and 11) at the time of delivery may pick up the virus while the baby is passing through the birth canal. The babies may later develop warts in the larynx that may require surgical treatment. Vaccinating women against HPV 6 and 11 dramatically reduces the risk of mothers passing the virus to their babies.

My partner has told me that s/he has HPV. Does that mean I have it too?

Not necessarily, but HPV infection usually affects both partners within a few months. HPV is largely invisible, but if there are signs of HPV, i.e., genital warts, you should talk to your doctor. Because you, or your partner could have HPV without knowing it, if you are a sexually active woman, it makes sense to take up cervical screening opportunities that are offered. In some cases, routine screening includes testing for HPV in your cervix. There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet, but it is important to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells found as part of the screening process. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether HPV vaccination is right for you. There are no standardized HPV testing or screening procedures for men.

I’m taking contraceptive pill-does that increase my risk?

The long-term use of oral contraceptives has been found to slightly increase the risk of cervical cancer, but only among women with HPV infection. Most of the evidence for this comes from early studies and currently available pills have lower estrogen levels. Therefore the risk, if any, is unclear at this stage. Having HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, and prevention still centres on vaccination to prevent HPV infection and screening for cervical pre-cancers. If in doubt consult your healthcare provider.

I have HIV, can I still get the HPV vaccine?

Yes. HIV-positive individuals will respond to the vaccine in a similar way those individuals who do not have HIV. Vaccination of HIV-positive and other immunosuppressed individuals is highly recommended up to the age of 26 years because their increased risk of cancers dues to HPV. Some HIV-positive individuals may benefit from vaccination after age 26, and you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Can you treat HPV infections?

There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet. Genital warts should also be treated and there are some very effective treatments available for both men and women. It is very important to talk to your doctor about any concerning symptoms and to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells that may be found as part of a screening process.

Should my daughter be vaccinated for HPV?

Yes. HPV vaccination will protect your daughter from cervical and other HPV related cancers. If you can, get your children vaccinated.

I have a son, can he be screened for anal, penile and oral cancers?

No- there are no available tests that can identify pre-cancerous lesions in these parts of the body. HPV testing of anal swab specimens may be available in some locations, but the role of anal HPV testing in screening for anal cancer or anal cancer pre-cursors is not yet established. HPV testing is not available for the penis or mouth or throat.

What is HPV?

HPV stands for “human papillomavirus. There are around 200 types of HPV and many are sexually transmitted. Some HPV types only infect the genital region, some can cause warts and others can cause life-threatening cancers such as cervical cancer and cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva and throat.

How do I get HPV?

HPV only infects skin cells and is spread through skin-to-skin contact. The HPV types that infect the genital region, anus and throat are spread through sexual contact.

How can I avoid getting HPV?

Avoiding HPV entirely can be difficult- more than 80% of sexually active people get at least one genital HPV infection at some point in their lives! But there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk 1) If you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from the vaccine, get vaccinated. Vaccination prevents the most dangerous HPV infections and some vaccines also prevent genital warts. 2) Consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of getting HPV. 3) reduce the number of sexual partners that you have.

How can I avoid giving my partner HPV?

It may not be possible to entirely avoid spreading HPV. But there are a few things you could do to reduce the risk: 1) Get vaccinated if you are eligible for the vaccine, or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it; 2) Use condoms for all sexual contact; 3) Get screened for cervical cancer if you are eligible. Apart from identifying pre-cancers, HPV screening is sometimes carried out at the same time. 4) See your health care provider if you are concerned that you have genital warts or other signs of HPV infection; 5) talk to your partner about HPV vaccination, screening, and condoms.

How do I get tested for HPV?

HPV testing of specimens taken from the cervix may be available for some women as part of being screened for cervical cancer. There is no HPV testing for men, and there are no blood tests for HPV.

If I get HPV will I get cancer?

Only a small fraction of people who get HPV develop cancer, so having HPV does not mean that you will get cancer! However, it is important to reduce the risk of getting HPV by being vaccinated, if you are eligible or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it, and getting screened for cervical cancer.

I've had the HPV vaccine, do I still need to be screened?

While the vaccine significantly reduces your risk of HPV-related cancers, women who have had the HPV vaccine still need to have cervical screening. Talk to your healthcare provider about the screening policies in your area.

If I have contact with someone who has genital warts will I get HPV?

Genital warts do contain a large amount of HPV that can be spread, so there is a good chance that you could get it. Not everyone who gets HPV gets genital warts, but you should talk to your healthcare provider about screening or vaccination. If you do develop genital warts, you should be treated for these. Effective treatments for genital warts are available for both men and women.

I’m a boy-should I be concerned about HPV?

Yes- boys and girls, men and women are all at risk for HPV- many HPV types are sexually transmitted! HPV can cause genital warts in boys as well as cancers of the anus, penis and throat. Boys can also spread HPV to their sexual partners, so avoiding getting it in the first place is a great idea. If you can, get vaccinated! Use condoms consistently and consider limiting your sexual exposure by reducing your number of sexual partners.

I’m over 26 years of age, should I get vaccinated?

Some people over the age of 26 years may benefit from HPV vaccination. In many countries, HPV vaccination may be given to women up to age 45 years, and this applies to men as well in some countries. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether the vaccine is right for you.

I’ve never had sex-should I get screened for HPV?

If you’ve never had sexual contact, your risk of getting HPV is so low that it would probably not be worthwhile to get tested.

I was screened and don’t have HPV-does that mean I’m not at risk of HPV related cancer?

It means that your risk of developing cancer in the near future is very low. However, you may still need to be screened in the future, depending on the screening policies in your area. As long as you are sexually active, you are at risk of HPV infection, along with a small risk of cancer.

Are there any lifestyle changes I can take to reduce my risk of getting HPV?

Yes! You can reduce your risk of getting HPV by getting vaccinated if you are eligible, using condoms and reducing the number of sexual partners that you have. You can also reduce your risk of getting cancer if you’ve already been infected with HPV by getting screened if you are eligible, and by not smoking.

Do condoms prevent HPV?

Condoms partially reduce the risk of infection because they cover (protect) only partially the skin of the genital tract. The more consistent the use of condoms, the higher the amount of protection. Condom use 100% of the time reduces the risk of spreading HPV by about 70%. Less frequent use means less protection.

How does HPV lead to cancer?

Once infected, the body may or may not clear HPV infection. If the body fails to clear the infection, long-term persistence may result in pre-cancerous changes. If left untreated, some of these changes will evolve over time into cancer. Screening and treating pre-cancers greatly reduces the risk of developing cancer.

My partner has told me that s/he has HPV. Does that mean I have it too?

Not necessarily, but HPV infection usually affects both partners within a few months. HPV is largely invisible, but if there are signs of HPV, i.e., genital warts, you should talk to your doctor. Because you, or your partner could have HPV without knowing it, if you are a sexually active woman, it makes sense to take up cervical screening opportunities that are offered. In some cases, routine screening includes testing for HPV in your cervix. There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet, but it is important to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells found as part of the screening process. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether HPV vaccination is right for you. There are no standardized HPV testing or screening procedures for men.

I have HIV, can I still get the HPV vaccine?

Yes. HIV-positive individuals will respond to the vaccine in a similar way those individuals who do not have HIV. Vaccination of HIV-positive and other immunosuppressed individuals is highly recommended up to the age of 26 years because their increased risk of cancers dues to HPV. Some HIV-positive individuals may benefit from vaccination after age 26, and you should talk with your healthcare provider.

Can you treat HPV infections?

There is no specific treatment for HPV infection yet. Genital warts should also be treated and there are some very effective treatments available for both men and women. It is very important to talk to your doctor about any concerning symptoms and to look for and treat any pre-cancerous cells that may be found as part of a screening process.