Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States. About 80 percent of women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lifetime. It is usually spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Many women do not know they have HPV because it usually has no symptoms and goes away on its own. Some types of HPV can cause illnesses such as genital warts or cervical cancer. There is a vaccine to help you prevent HPV.
How is HPV spread?
- Vaginal, oral, or anal sex HPV can be spread even if there are no symptoms. This means you can get HPV from someone who has no signs or symptoms.
- Genital touching A man does not need to ejaculate (come) for HPV to spread. HPV can also be passed between women who have sex with women.
- Childbirth from a woman to her baby
What are the signs and symptoms of HPV?
Most people with HPV do not have any symptoms. This is one reason why women need regular Pap tests. Experts recommend that you get your first Pap test at age 21. The Pap test can find changes on the cervix caused by HPV. If you are a woman between ages 30 and 65, your doctor might also do an HPV test with your Pap test every five years. This is a DNA test that detects most types of HPV.
How can I prevent HPV?
There are two ways to prevent HPV. One way is to get an HPV vaccine. The other way to prevent HPV or any STI is to not have sexual contact with another person. If you do have sex, lower your risk of getting an STI with the following steps:
- Use condoms Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you have sex. Research shows that condom use is linked to lower cervical cancer rates. HPV can also occur in female and male genital areas that are not protected by condoms. The HPV vaccine does not replace or decrease the need to wear condoms. Make sure to put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina, mouth, or anus. Other methods of birth control such as birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms will not protect you from STIs.
- Get tested Be sure you and your partner are tested for STIs. Talk to each other about the test results before you have sex.
- Be monogamous Having sex with just one partner can lower your risk for STIs. After being tested for STIs, be faithful to each other. That means that you have sex only with each other and no one else.
- Limit your number of sex partners Your risk of getting STIs goes up with the number of sexual partners you have.
- Do not douche Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection. Douching may increase your risk of getting STIs.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STIs are usually spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. More than 9 million women in the United States are diagnosed with an STI each year. Women often have more serious health and fertility problems from STIs than men.
Nearly 20 million people in the United States get an STI each year.2 These infections affect women and men of all backgrounds and economic levels. Half of all new infections are among 15 to 24 year olds.
Ask your provider about getting tested for STIs. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what test(s) you may need and how they are done. Testing for STIs is also called STI screening.
STI testing can include:
- Pelvic and physical exams Your doctor looks for signs of infections like warts, rashes, or discharge.
- Blood test A nurse will draw blood to test for an STI.
- Urine test You will urinate (pee) into a cup, and the urine is tested for an STI.
- Fluid or tissue sample Your doctor or nurse uses a cotton swab to take fluid or discharge from an infected place on your body. The fluid is looked at under a microscope or sent to a lab for testing.
Call us today to schedule an appointment to get tested for STIs or to get vaccines for hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV).