What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus spread through sexual contact. Most of the time, HPV has no symptoms – so people do not know they have it or that they are passing it to others.
Although there are approximately 40 types of genital HPV, types 16 and 18 are associated with about 70 percent of invasive cervical cancers in women and can be prevented with HPV vaccines. HPV can also cause throat cancer in both men and women.
Research has underscored the high rates of HPV in sexually active individuals. In fact, HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide. In the United States, an estimated 24.9 million women aged 14 to 50 years are infected.
Those studies suggest that adolescents and young women are the most vulnerable, with high rates of infection seen shortly after the onset of sexual activity – suggesting that many women get it from their first male sexual partner.
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Who should get the Vaccine?
Everyone! Encourage your friends to get the vaccine, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it for everyone ages 9 to 26 years now!
In spite of the CDC recommendation that girls age 9 and older be vaccinated against the four strains of HPV most likely to cause cervical cancer, as of 2009 only 1 out of 4 girls has received all three HPV shots.
And now boys need to be vaccinated, too. If you are have not been vaccinated, talk to your doctor. The vaccine is most protective if you get it before you become sexually active.
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What does the vaccine protect against?
Getting the vaccine is vital, but remember that getting the vaccine does not protect you from the other sexually transmitted infections or from pregnancy, so always use a condom if you are sexually active.
Using condoms can help protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). However, HPV – like herpes (HSV) – can be passed between people via skin-to-skin contact, not just with penetration. Condoms cannot protect you 100 percent from HPV or HSV, but do a better job protecting you from other STIs.
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- Young Adult Advisory Committee
- Katharine Booher, public health education intern
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
HPV: Questions & Answers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For More Information:
See our HPV for Males article.
See our HPV or Genital Warts article.
See our Parents: HPV Vaccine article.
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: July 31, 2013