HPV is short for Human papillomavirus. It’s a virus that likes to burrow down in your skin and is passed from one person to another through sexual contact. 1 out of 4 sexually active adults in the U.S. is infected with HPV. There are over 150 types of HPV and some of these types can cause genital warts and cancer.
TEM Image of HPV (Source: Wikipedia)
Why is this important to me?
You don't have to have sex to get HPV!
HPV infections can be caused by other types of sexual contact, such as hand-to-genital or mouth-to-genital.
How do I know if I have HPV?
Most of the time, if you’re infected with HPV, you won’t know it. Usually, the body sees the virus and gets rid of it without causing any symptoms. While that sounds good, that means you can’t test for HPV and might give it to someone else without even knowing it.
On top of that, some types of HPV can cause warts to grow on your genitals. Warts can be itchy, uncomfortable and really gross to look at.
More seriously, HPV can cause many different types of cancer. This chart shows many of the cancers that are related to HPV infection.
I don’t want that! What can I do?
Condoms can help block HPV from passing from one person to the next. However, HPV can still get passed along on skin that is not covered by the condom.
The best way to prevent HPV infections is to get vaccinated! These vaccines protect against the types of HPV that cause cancer and warts and will last the rest of your life. Usually, 3 doses over 6 months to provide a lifetime of security. Both boys and girls should get vaccinated. Although it’s better to get the shot before becoming sexually active, it is never too late to protect yourself against HPV infections!
Now that you know what HPV is, be sure to share your knowledge with your friends!
To find out where you can get the HPV vaccine, click here: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/supp_info/clinical_health/hpv-vaccine-is-cancer-prevention.html
Remember, if you are 18 years or old, you do NOT need a parent’s permission to get the vaccine.
For more information about HPV, click here: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/hpv-vaccine.html
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