Frequently Asked Questions
- What is HPV? HPV stands for the
Human Papillomavirus which is a group of papillomavirus
that affects humans. Of the 100 to 200 identified
strains of HPV, some cause no symptoms, some are the
cause of different kinds of warts while other are
precursors to cervical and other genital cancers.
You can be infected with HPV but not show any symptoms.
- Is HPV infection common? It is
estimated that up to 75% of sexually active men and
women will be infected with the HPV at some stage
of their lives. Young people are the most susceptible
with the risk of infection diminishing with age.
- How do you get infected by HPV?
HPV is spread by contact with HPV infected skin. You
can spread the virus to other parts of your own body,
for example, by touching a common wart on your skin.
Highly contagious strains of HPV are spread during
sexual activity with an infected person, including,
but not restricted to, sexual intercourse. Any skin-to-skin
contact with an HPV infected area can spread the virus.
- Does using a condom protect against catching
HPV? Using a condom certainly does reduce
the risk of contracting HPV from an infected sexual
partner but it won't prevent infection from the skin
surrounding the genital area.
- How do you know if you have been infected
with HPV? You may display symptoms but these
can take some time to develop; from weeks to months
usually. Some HPV strains don't produce any symptoms
and some people don't get any symptoms from symptom-producing
strains. This means that you can't rely on the presence
or absence of HPV symptoms to know if you have the
virus. The only reliable method is to have the HPV
test that has been developed for women; there is still
no test for men.
- How do I know if a sexual partner has HPV?
A person infected with HPV has a responsibility to
their sexual partner to tell them they have the virus.
However, they may be unaware they have been infected
if they have no noticeable symptoms. If you suspect
you may be infected, or you have tested positive to
HPV, you need to tell any partners you have had.
- If I have HPV, will I get cancer?
A few strains of HPV are precursors for cervical and
other cancers. Unless you have been infected with
these particular strains, you have no greater risk
of developing cancer than the general population.
The strains that lead to cancer do not have any visible
- Is there a treatment for HPV? There
is currently no treatment for HPV although the symptoms,
mainly common and genital warts, can be treated. The
best defence against HPV and other viral infection
is a strong immune system; in most people who have
been infected with HPV, their immune system clears
the virus from the body without any outside help.
It is therefore important that your diet and lifestyle
support a strong immune system.
- How can I protect myself against HPV infection?
The only way to absolutely avoid HPV is to abstain
from sexual relationships. As this is generally not
an option, the second best way is to be monogamous
– only have one sexual partner in life. Of course,
while you may only ever have one partner, that partner
may have had several sexual partners before you came
along, so ask them to be tested (if they are a woman).
Using a condom gives you some protection but it isn't
- Does HPV affect my ability to fall pregnant
and give birth? There has been no link made
between HPV and fertility and it appears as though
the virus has no affect on getting pregnant and delivering
a healthy baby. If you have genital warts, they may
enlarge or multiply during your pregnancy due to hormonal
fluctuations but only rarely do they need treatment
or removal during your pregnancy. It is also very
rare that the virus is transferred to the baby and
this is mainly during the delivery; a Caesarean may
be an option.