HPV

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Overview

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (pap-ill-o-ma-vi-rus). HPV is very common. In fact, people who have had unprotected sex with more than two partners in their lifetime probably have it. There are many different types of HPV and the body usually clears these infections without treatment. However, there are a few types of HPV that are more serious and may cause cancer or genital warts.

How do I get it?
HPV can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex and through close skin-to-skin contact. In other words, through contact during regular sex, butt sex, or blow jobs/eating out. Even if you use a condom, you can still give HPV to your partner or get HPV from your partner. You may not know you have HPV or if your partner has HPV because it often has no symptoms.
What will it feel like?

For most people with HPV, nothing happens and you don't know if you have it. Usually, your body fights the virus and gets rid of the infection without treatment. If you have the type of HPV that causes warts, you may notice small wart-like bumps on the penis, in and around the vagina, on the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and/or around the rectum. There can be one wart or many warts, small or large. They are usually the same color as your skin although they can also be white. Warts do not cause itching or burning.

How do I get tested?

Testing for HPV is different for girls and guys. For girls, HPV testing happens when she has a pap smear at her doctor's office. A pap smear is when a doctor takes a sample of cells on the cervix during an exam. Papsmears are not recommended for any women under the age of 21, but you can get a pap smear at Health Center 1, Health Center 5, or any other family medicine or internal medicine doctor. Check with your doctor before you go to make sure they offer papsmears. For guys, there is no testing for HPV available. The only way to know if a male has HPV is if he is experiencing wart-like symptoms that may be caused by HPV.

What if I test Positive?

HPV is very common, and there is no routine testing or screening for men. If you are a guy, the only way to know if you have HPV is if you are having wart-like symptoms around your penis, balls or butthole. Girls will know they have HPV if they have an abnormal pap smear at their doctor's office or if they are experiencing wart-like symptoms around their vagina or butthole. For both girls and guys, genital warts are sometimes so small they can't be seen. This means you may have HPV, but you may not know it. Currently, there is no cure for HPV, but treatments are available for the symptoms. Some treatments can only be done in a doctor's office or clinic. There isn't one treatment that works for everyone so it's important to work with your doctor to decide which is best for you.

NOTE: Treatments for "common" warts (like the kind you buy over the counter) should NOT be used in the genital area!

How do I protect myself?
There is a safe and effective vaccine for guys and girls to prevent HPV, which can cause genital warts and can lead to cancer later in life. This vaccine is recommended for guys and girls ages 11-26. The vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause cancer or genital warts. Not having sex is the only way to be sure you won't be infected with HPV. If you are having sex, use condoms correctly every time you have oral, anal, and vaginal sex to make sure you stay STD free. The risk for HPV is connected to the number of sex partners you have: the more sex partners, the greater the risk!
Where can I get tested?
Health Center 1 and Health Center 5 do not offer HPV screening for guys. If you are having wart-like symptoms, you should come in immediately for testing. Girls can get HPV screening at Health Center 1 or 5 by asking for a pap smear. They can also get a pap smear at primary care doctors. Check out our map to find a place near you. Make sure you call ahead to see if they offer pap smears.