What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, a virus that can infect humans. While some strains of this virus can cause no outward symptoms at all, some can cause warts and in other more severe cases, cancer.
HPV affects millions of people in the US and for many, it is more of an inconvenience than an actual health threat. Milder cases of HPV infection include genital warts, hand warts, feet warts, or skin ulcers.
More severe cases of HPV can lead to cancers including cervical cancer, which is why women are advised to undergo regular PAP smear tests or cervical cancer screening as early as the age of 21.
HPV is passed through skin to skin contact. The virus enters the body through a cut or a lesion, or through sexual contact. In rare cases, a mother can pass on HPV to her newborn.
There are a number of risk factors for contracting HPV. One is having multiple sexual partners, thus ,in order to reduce risk of contracting HPV, it is advisable for people to have monogamous sex with a partner who does not have multiple partners, or otherwise use barrier protection. Gender also plays a factor, as women are more likely to be affected with HPV than men. Those with compromised immune systems are also at risk, such as those affected with HIV. People with compromised immune systems will experience more severe effects from HPV compared to healthier individuals.
In the US, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that about 75% to 80% of sexually active Americans will have the infection at least at one point in their lives.