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HPV- the virus that spreads faster and silently than HIV

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body, depending on the strain. The World Health Organization records that there are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk type).

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and not easily detected because people with HPV don’t develop any symptoms but can still infect others through sexual contact.

Genital warts caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV)

It’s so common that most sexually active people will get some variety of it at some point, even if they have few sexual partners. Some cases of genital HPV infection may not cause any health problems. However, some types of HPV can lead to the development of genital warts and even cancers of the cervix, anus, and throat.

The types of HPV that cause warts are different from the types that cause cancer. So, having genital warts caused by HPV doesn’t mean that you’ll develop cancer.

How it spreads

  • By having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • By mother to baby by pregnancy, labor, or nursing .

Facts about HPV

  1. Spreads by sexual contact
  2. Some types preventable by vaccine
  3. Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured
  4. Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong
  5. Requires a medical diagnosis
  6. Lab tests or imaging often required

Treatment

Currently, there isn’t a cure for HPV and warts may go away on their own. No drug is available to treat the virus itself. Treatment depends on stage and focuses on managing any symptoms like removing the warts. Genital warts can be treated with prescription medications like podophyllum that can be self applied (external use only), burning with an electrical current or freezing with liquid nitrogen. But, getting rid of the physical warts doesn’t treat the virus itself, and the warts may return.

The two best ways to avoid getting HPV are by practicing safe sex and getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls to protect against HPV types 16 and 18, both of which can lead to certain cancers.

These vaccines are Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. Each one involves a series of two or three Trusted Source injections into a muscle over six months, depending on age.

Older guidelines recommend the HPV vaccine Gardasil for females between the ages of 11 and 26, and for males through age 21. The current guidelines now state that both men and women between the ages of 27 and 45 who have not been previously vaccinated for HPV are now eligible for Gardasil 9. The complete vaccination series involves two or three doses.

  • Two doses. Two doses of the vaccine are recommended for most people before their 15th birthday. The second dose should be given between 6 to 12 months after the first dose.
  • Three doses. Three doses are recommended for anyone who gets their first dose between 15 and 26 years old, or for anyone with a compromised immune system.

You need to get the complete series of vaccinations to be fully protected. Remember that nearly all sexually active adults will get HPV at some point in their lives including here in Uganda too. Consistently practicing safe sex and getting tested will help prevent STIs.

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