HPV: Human Papillomavirus
HPV is the virus that can cause genital warts, although around about only 13% of people who carry the virus ever shows signs of wart. Warts are often cauliflower like fleshy lumps that appear around the genitals; anus and can sometimes develop inside the bottom lip.
As an STI HPV is passed on during sexual contact through sexual fluids, but also through skin-to-skin contact, as a result whist using a condom during sex can help to prevent transmission, if it does not cover any visual warts there is still a risk of passing on the virus.
Some strains of HPV can cause changes to a woman’s cervix which over time can lead to cervical cancer. HPV has also been linked to other forms of cancer such as penile, anal or throat cancer. That being said, many forms of the virus are harmless and people may carry or come into contact with the virus without knowing, and it will clear up and go away on its own, in time.
The HPV Jab:
Since 2008 in the UK, girls aged 12 years and above have been offered a vaccine on the NHS which protects against the forms of the virus known to be most commonly associated with cervical cancer. Since September 2012 the vaccine has also included protection against the forms of the virus that cause most cases of genital warts. It is recommended that you have the vaccine if and when it is offered to you. It is a course of three injections given over 6 months.
The HPV jab is often administered through schools to pupils in year 8. However, some schools do not allow for the jab to be offered to its pupils as they fear that the jab sexualises young girls and will encourage them to be promiscuous. There is no evidence to support this misunderstanding. The jab is offered to girl’s in year 8 as there is very little chance that they will have already have been exposed to the virus and most importantly the jab is designed to protect against cervical cancer which can affect anyone regardless of the number of sexual partners they might have.
If your school is does not offer the HPV jab, make sure that you contact your GP and ask there to provide the jab independently, which will be free of charge.
Remember though, even if you have had the HPV jab it is still really important to go and have a regular smear test done to find out more read this…
If you are concerned about any symptoms you may have you should seek advice from a health professional – to find your nearest sexual health service click here…