Q: What is HPV?
Marla Ahlgrimm: HPV, or human papillomavirus, is not one but a collection of 150 (or more) viral infections. It is a sexually transmitted disease that is so commonplace that virtually all sexually active people will have an infection at some point in their lives.
Q: Is it dangerous?
Marla Ahlgrimm: While many HPV infections are benign, there are forms of the virus that can cause noticeable issues. Genital warts is one example. Thankfully, the dozen or so viral infections that cause genital warts are low-risk. Higher risk strains can cause cancer but are are less common. HPV can be detected during a PAP exam.
Q: If I get HPV, will I get cancer or genital warts?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Probably not. In fact, most people’s bodies do the work of ridding itself of the infection. However, if you contract a high-risk strain, you may have a persistent infection that can invade your body’s normal cells and lead to cancer.
Q: How do I prevent an HPV infection?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The HPV vaccine, which is available to males and females ages 9 - 26 is the most effective method of prevention. It is a series of two shots with no known severe side effects and is up to 99 percent effective. It is important to note that women who receive the vaccine should still get screened for cervical cancer since HPV is not the only cause. Limiting your sexual partner is another way to reduce your chances of contracting this or other STDs.