HPV commonly known as genital warts is the most common STI, with high infection rates in late teen and early 20-year-olds. There are over 100 different strains of HPV which affect areas of the body and can cause cervical, anal, penis, vulval, vaginal and neck/head cancers.
Despite HPV being highly common there’s an abundance of myths and misconceptions surrounding this STI, so we thought we’d tackle those myths and help you better understand HPV.
Myth #1: HPV is curable
It’s not something you need to panic about because your bodys natural immune system will help to flush out the infection, there is no treatment available for HPV however you can receive treatment for health problems caused by HPV.
Myth #2: Only women and people with a cervix/vagina/vulva get it
HPV can cause cervical, vulval and penile cancers and therefore affect all bodies no matter the gender are affected. Men and people with penises can be infected through sex and skin-to-skin contact, it is rare with only 640 cases a year in the UK but it is still a risk and you should use preventative methods such as using condoms, and practicing good genital hygiene.
Learn more about the different causes, symptoms and treatments for HPV and how it affects everyone here.
Myth #3: All strains cause cancer
Although many types of cancer are caused by HPV not all strains of HPV cause cancer, in fact most strains won’t. Some will cause skin warts and genital warts, but it is types 16 and 18 that have the highest risk of causing cervical and genital cancers. This is why it’s important to atten your smear tests.
Myth #4: Barrier contraceptives will prevent it
Using condoms or dental dams can lower the risk of becoming infected with HPV but it will not completely prevent it, because HPV can be present on other areas of the genitals which are not protected by the barrier methods. You can actually get HPV without having penetrative sex as it is a skin-to-skin STI.
Myth #5: it’s unlikely you will get it
If you’re sexually active then you are likely to have been infected with HPV within the first few months or years, but only half of these infections are high-risk types.
HPV is one of the reasons we get smear tests because it can go undetected for years.
We know the thought of having HPV and not being able to do anything about it seems quite scary, but it’s just something we live with, much like HSV and if you keep on top of your smear tests and barrier protection, it is likely to not affect you.. If you have warts these can be frozen off or you can be given a cream, and there is a vaccination programme offered to 12-13 year olds to protect against the cancerous strains of HPV.