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Who 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 person.

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 or not.

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.

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