HPV, an abbreviation for Human Papillomavirus, refers to a group of more than 100 types of viruses that affect the genital area. A high-risk strain of HPV in women can cause cervical cancer if left untreated. A large number of these viruses are transmitted through sexual contact.
This group of virus is very prevalent among sexually active individuals. Experts claim that more than half of sexually active individuals will be contract HPV at one time in their life. The sad fact is that most of these victims will never know that they are infected because HPV in most cases has no symptoms and will often disappear on its own.
Transmission of HPV from one individual to another happens through skin-to-skin and genitalia contact. This normally occurs during penetrative vaginal or anal sex. HPV transmission may also occur, at a lesser degree, in oral sex or in hand-to-genital contact.
Women with HPV hardly realize they are infected. It is important for every sexually active woman to have regular Pap tests to check for changes caused by HPV on the cervix. A Pap test is basically a simple medical test that involves scrapping cell samples from a woman’s cervix for examination under a microscope.
HPV can be prevented through vaccination. Two types of HPV vaccines known as Cervarix and Gardasil have been found to be quite effective in protecting young women from HPV infections that may likely cause cervical cancer. The vaccines are most effective when given to 11 and twelve year old girls who have not yet had their first sexual encounter. Each vaccine is usually given in 3 doses. It is advisable to consult your doctor before getting the vaccines. However, the vaccine should not be a replacement for wearing condoms or practicing safe sex to avoid other STD infections.