is At Risk of Getting HPV? Who is Most at Risk?
Everyone who is sexually active is at risk of getting
HPV. This is not a fact that people want to hear, but
it is the answer to the question. Being sexually active
refers anyone who has vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse
or who indulges in touching or sexual play with a partner.
The human papillomavirus is contagious and is easily
spread through contact with the skin of an infected
There are multiple strains of HPV that produce
different symptoms and infect different areas of the
body. The most contagious strains are those that are
classified as a Sexually Transmitted Disease or STD
for short; these infect the skin and mucous membranes
of the genital, anal and oral areas of the body.
Most of the strains of HPV don't have any noticeable
symptoms and a person can be infected with the virus
without knowing they have it. While there are some strains
that do produce visible symptoms, not all people who
are infected with these strains will develop the symptoms.
This means that infected people can be infecting their
sexual partner or partners without even knowing they
have HPV themselves. This is how the virus can spread
so easily and rapidly. HPV symptoms can take weeks or months to appear which
can make it difficult to identify who was the carrier,
if you had several sexual partners in the meantime.
Even couples in a long term monogamous relationship
can infect each other, if one has the virus, because
HPV can lie dormant for many years before surfacing.
A person with HPV is infectious whether they have symptoms
All these factors lead to the fact that all sexually
active people are at risk of getting HPV. However, there
are some groups of people who have a greater risk of
being infected with HPV, so they are the ones who are
most at risk of getting HPV.
- You are more at risk if you became sexually active
at an early age.
- The majority of HPV infections occur during the
teen years and twenties, so people in this age bracket,
particularly women, have a greater HPV risk. HPV infection
decreases with age.
- Obviously, having sex with a person infected with
HPV increases your risk of being infected.
- Having multiple sex partners puts you in the high
risk category because you have more opportunities
to be infected; so does having sex with a person who
has had multiple partners even if you haven't.
- People with a weak immune system are more at risk
of HPV infection. This is because a strong immune
system will often remove the virus from the body and
prevent the virus taking hold or staying around.
- Those living with HIV have a compromised immune
system and this makes them a greater risk of HPV infection.
- If you smoke or drink alcohol on a regular basis,
you are also more at risk of HPV infection.
- If you are sick or are already infected with another
virus, you are more likely to contract an HPV infection.
- Being pregnant also puts you in the high risk area
for HPV infection.
The best way to avoid HPV infection, apart from total
abstinence of sexual activity, is to be in a monogamous
relationship. Using a condom decreases the risk but
is not a fool-proof method, although female condoms
do offer more protection. Strengthen your immune system
with dietary and lifestyle changes to be better able
to fight off viral infections.