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STI & STD Lowdown: What Is HPV?

Welcome to the first weekly article about STI and STDs! Over the next few weeks, we will give you vital information about the various sexually transmitted diseases and infections one can have.

HPV is a very common infection – up to 80% of people will be infected with a genital HPV infection at some time during their lives. But what actually is it?

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus which is a group of over a 150 different related viruses. Most strands are harmless. You could contract it, show no symptoms and your body could clear itself with no help needed. However, other strands can become more of a problem and can lead to things like genital warts and even certain types of cancer.

For females, it is hugely important to get regular pap tests. These smear tests test for the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells in the opening of the uterus.

Males can have HPV too, but there is unfortunately no test available. So unless you have genital warts or any other symptoms, you might never know.

So how can I get HPV?

HPV is spread through genital-to-genital contact. Therefore, you are still at risk of contracting HPV even if you do not have penetrative sex.

How can I prevent it?

First and foremost, you should talk to your doctor about possible HPV vaccines, which will give you protection from certain higher risk strands.
Condoms protect you to a certain degree, but since they don’t cover your whole genital area, they won’t protect you completely. Take a trip to the campus doctor, or ask your Welfare Officer for more information.

What happens if I do get HPV?

If you think you might have a strain of HPV, you should ask your local clinic for advice. If your cervical screening test detects abnormal cells and high-risk HPV you may be sent for further examination. It can take about 12-18 months to clear a high-risk HPV infection.

If you think you may have genital warts a doctor will have a look at it and if it is then they will give you treatment there and then, usually a cream or ointment.

Above all, make sure you know the risks and what precautions to take. Make sure you and your sexual partner get tested regularly for STIs to ensure you have a healthy and safe sexual relationship.

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