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STI Info: Human Papilloma Virus

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Human Papilloma Virus, also know as venereal, anogenital, or genital warts, and condylomata, is a group of viruses that includes transmitted and infect the genital area of both men and women. The virus lives within the skin or mucous membrane while commonly not showing any signs or symptoms.

Topics

Symptoms

Most people who have genital HPV show no symptoms and have no idea that they have the virus. Of those individuals who do have symptoms, they usually appear 2 per 3 weeks after contact with the virus, but may appear months later or not at all. The most common symptom are genital warts that appear as soft, moist, pink, or flesh-colored swellings, usually in the genital area. Genital warts can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, and sometimes cauliflower shaped. They can appear on the vulva, in or around the vagina or anus, on the cervix, and on the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh. In addition to genital warts, a symptom of HPV can also be pre-cancerous changes in the cervix, vulva, anus, or penis.

HPV and Cervical Cancer

Of the 30 types of HPV that create genital warts, 10 are associated with Cervical Cancer. Research conducted by the CDC states that 90% of women with HPV outbreaks have undectectable cases after two years. Only a small percentage of women have persistent HPV outbreaks, yet they are the women that are most likely to develop Cervical Cancer. Regular Pap smears are recommended for women to screen for HPV and detect early signs on Cervical Cancer. Those individual who have severe cases of Cervical Cancer are those who did not use regular screening procedures. In 2006 Gardasil created a vaccine for four types of HPV which cause 70% of Cervical Cancer and 90% of genital warts infections. For more information visit: www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/hpv-vaccine.pdf

Cases and Transmission

According to the Center for disease control, approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. 50% of all men and women who are sexually active will contract an HPV infection at some point in their life. In Americans each year, 6.2 new cases of HPV are diagnosed.

HPV is spread through genital contact. This can include vaginal, oral, or anal sex as well as rubbing an infected area. Most individuals who are infected with HPV have no symptoms and are unaware they are infected, yet they still can spread the virus.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no clinical blood test at this time to diagnose HPV. It is important that if you think you may have a genital wart to go to a doctor so they may inspect it closely. A Pap smear is required to screen for HPV. Abnormalities usually indicate that DNA testing should be done to determine treatment. Some health care professionals use acetic acid (vinegar) on the genital area allowing warts to become white and easier to see. There is no screening method for men at this time.

Local Testing Available at:

  • Eastern Illinois University Health Service: Females - $40 for Pap exam, Men - visual inspection $30
    • Phone: (217) 581-3013
  • Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department: Free with suggested donation of $20
    • 710 Neil Street, Champaign, IL 61820
    • Phone: (217) 352-7961

Cure

There is no known cure for HPV. For some individuals the virus goes away on its own. Treatments focus on the changes in the skin, such as the genital warts or mucous membrane, and minimizing the symptoms. In some cases the warts may need to be removed surgically.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

The only 100% effective way to prevent HPV is to abstain from sexual activity and/or activity involving genital contact. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce your risk. HPV is found in areas that can be covered by a latex condom, yet they can also be found in areas that are not. Although condoms do not prevent all cases of HPV, condom use has been associated with lower rates of cervical cancer.