How to Protect Yourself from HPV

Student HPV articleHow to Protect Yourself from HPV

By: Makenzie Hunt, nursing student

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection for teens and young adults. Approximately 80% of people will be infected at some point in their life, but most of these people will never show symptoms. This allows the infected person to pass the virus to a sexual partner unknowingly. In most cases, 9 out of 10 times, HPV will go away by itself.

HPV is contracted through skin to skin contact, even if the infected partner does not have signs or symptoms. There are 150 different strains of HPV which causes warts or cancer, for men and women. Certain strains of HPV, strains 16 and 18, cause cervical cancer in women. HPV is the most common cause for cervical cancer, making it important to have proper screenings done.

Who is at risk for HPV?

            -Peak age for someone to get infected with HPV is early 20s

            -Multiple sexual partners

            -Not using condoms    

How to prevent infection of HPV:

            Immunization against HPV is safe and effective. The CDC recommends all boys and girls at the age of 11 or 12 to get the vaccination called Gardasilâ9. There are two doses given if the child is between 9 to 14, with the second dose being six months to a year after the first dose. If the child is 15 years or older, they will need three doses of the vaccine per CDC recommendation. Gardasilâ9 is available to be given at the Ste. Genevieve Health Department or your primary healthcare physician.

Why are Pap smears important?

            Pap smears collect a sample of cervical cells to test for any abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that screening should be done when a woman is 21 years old and routinely done every 3 years if the results are normal. Cervical cancer progresses slowly, so Pap smears detect the cancerous cells early. Doing this test will allow women to know if they need further interventions, or if they are healthy. Pap smears can be done by gynecologists and some family doctors will perform this as well. Ask your primary physician to see if this test is available.