There are over 100 types of HPV, 30 affecting the genitals, and they are easily transmitted through skin to skin contact of the genital area during intercourse. Condoms reduce your risk of contracting HPV but are not 100% effective against transmission of the virus.
HPV typically does not present with symptoms, although an HPV infection can lead to genital warts and abnormal tissue and cell growth in the cervix, which in some cases can lead to cervical cancer. There is currently a vaccine available which protects against the types of HPV that can lead to cancer. It is now given to girls aged 12-13 but can be taken at any age.
If you have been sexually active, we advise that you get tested for HPV before having the vaccine.It is estimated that eight out of ten people in the UK will contract an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
General testing for HPV is done as part of our cervical smear testing. In the event of a positive test result, we can also tell you which subtype of HPV you have, which provides an assessment of your risk of cervical cancer or genital warts, and an indication of how regularly you should be tested. There is no treatment for the virus itself, but the effects of infection can be managed. The body usually clears itself of the virus within two years.
What to do next
Call us to discuss any aspect of HPV, whether you want to get tested, learn more about the vaccine, or treat an existing HPV infection.
Eight out of ten people will be infected from the virus at some point of their lives in the UK. The virus mostly occurs on fingers hands, mouth and genitals. There are many different types of HPV from which most are harmless, but around 30 of them can cause cancer (cervical cancer).
HPV is transmitted through intimate and sexual contact, most commonly from vaginal or anal sex but it can be transmitted through other intimate contact and condoms are not effective protection. It can also be transferred from a pregnant mother to her baby during delivery. Most people do not know that they have the infection, and in many cases, the body will clear it on its own.
The best way to prevent HPV infection is to be vaccinated before potential exposure. Once you have already been infected with the virus, the vaccine becomes less effective. Practising safe sex can limit the risks but will not totally guard against infection.