Although human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, many people are surprisingly poorly educated about it. For one thing, it’s not billed as one of the “scariest,” the way HIV and syphilis are. For another, old conceptions that it is mostly a disease that affects women still hold sway, even though it’s dangerous for males as well.
According to the American Sexual Health Association, “Approximately 14 million new cases of sexually transmitted HPV occur in the U.S. each year, with at least 79 million people estimated to be currently infected. Most people with HPV, though, do not know that they are infected.”
Moreover, unlike many other STDs that require sexual fluids for the exchange of the disease, “HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, not through an exchange of bodily fluid. HPV can be contracted from one partner, remain dormant, and then later be unknowingly transmitted to another sexual partner, including a spouse.” (1)
Because of the long-lasting and potentially devastating consequences, it’s critical to be aware of HPV, how to avoid it and how to get tested.
What Is HPV?
“HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection,” says Planned Parenthood. “HPV is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some types can lead to cancer or genital warts.” (2)
HPV is not actually a single virus, but rather a group of more than 100 virus, some of which are far likelier than others to have consequences. The main ways HPV manifests are in a greater likelihood of genital warts, as well as cancer in the genitals, cervix, anus and throat. Because the body is able to clear up the infection on its own – also like many other STDs – most people never know they have it.
Unfortunately, HPV is so good at lying dormant that this dramatically increases the chances of passing it on. That makes awareness and precaution critical.
How Can You Avoid Getting HPV?
First and foremost, know that unlike many other STDs, there is a vaccine for HPV. As Planned Parenthood explains, “The HPV vaccine helps protect you against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. Also known by the brand name Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine protects against:
- HPV types 16 and 18 — the 2 types that cause 80% of cervical cancer cases.
- HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts cases.
- Another 5 types of HPV (types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) that can lead to cancer of the cervix, anus, vulva/vagina, penis, or throat.” (3)
The vaccine is delivered as three separate shots, the second 2 months after the first, and the third 4 months after the second, making it a 6-month series. In the younger years, from 9-14, only two shots are needed, 6 months apart – good to know for parents concerned about protecting their children from HPV. (4)
Other ways to avoid getting HPV include:
- Using condoms with unknown sexual partners
- Only sleeping with new people – or engaging in any kind of sexual activity – when sober
- Avoiding multiple partners at the same time
- Testing yourself regularly, and requiring that new sexual partners get tested before you begin sleeping with them
Unfortunately, because so many people are asymptomatic, and because the infection is so widespread, it’s not enough to “trust” a partner that you’ve been with for a while before having sex. We cannot say it enough: testing is critical.
Why Should You Get Tested?
There are several good reasons to get tested for HPV specifically, and STDs in general. When it comes to sexually transmitted diseases as a whole, potential consequences include:
- Long-lasting diseases such as herpes, hepatitis C, AIDs or genital warts
- Infertility and even sterility in both men and women
- Dangerous ectopic pregnancies, which is when the embryo develops in a fallopian tube and is potentially fatal to women
- Passing on the disease to babies, who can face serious health consequences or even death
- Widespread infection rates, which leads to widespread antibiotic use, which can lead to antibiotic resistance and “superbugs” (5)
Human papillomavirus in particular is dangerous because of its ability to lead to cancer so many years later, either in yourself or in a partner to whom you have unwittingly transmitted the disease. Also, says the Centers for Disease Control, “People with weak immune systems (including those with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV. They may also be more likely to develop health problems from HPV.” (6) Because of this, getting tested becomes even more important. That way, you can learn about other diseases that might increase your chances of HPV complications.
It’s time you learned about the best way to test.
What Is a Home Test Kit and How Does It Work?
Many people hate the idea of routine testing at the clinic. If they’ve been with the same partner for years, they may even see it as unnecessary – even if they haven’t been tested since starting a sexual relationship with that partner. As discussed, though, this is a good way to foster HPV in secret.
If you’re put off by the idea of a doctor’s appointment unless absolutely necessary, try a home test kit from iDNA. This allows you to determine your STD status in the comfort and privacy of your own home, as often as you need to. The kit comes mailed to you in an unmarked box, with a discreet designation on your credit card statement.
Once you have it, you simply follow the instructions to test yourself at home, then send your sample in to our certified laboratory, which works 7 days a week to provide fast and accurate results at a reasonable cost. Once you register, you’ll have access to your results, and can track the progression as well as speak with our team whenever you need to. Never have you had more control over your sexual health.
Take Control of Your Health
Ready to stop wondering and know for sure what your STD status is? Get an iDNA test kit today. That way, you can have peace of mind with all negative results and be proactive if you ever see a positive. There’s no time like the present to take control of your health, so get your kit today.
- (1) Fast Facts. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/hpv/fast-facts/
- (2) Human Papillomavirus (HPV). (2019). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv
- (3) Should I Get the HPV Vaccine? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv/should-i-get-hpv-vaccine
- (4) Should I Get the HPV Vaccine? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv/should-i-get-hpv-vaccine
- (5) Stop the Spread of Superbugs: Help Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria. (2014). Retrieved from https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/02/stop-spread-superbugs
- (6) Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm