Ever been in a situation where you’re in a new relationship and everything’s going great
but there’s something which you haven’t told your partner yet?
Sexually transmitted diseases don’t make for easy conversation especially if it’s HPV.
So, how do you tell your partner?
The better educated you are about HPV, the easier it is to give your partner the information needed to answer common questions.
Here’s some information to help you explain this infection better.
What is HPV?
HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
There are 100 different sub types of which about 40 can infect the genital areas-your vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, and scrotum as well as your mouth and throat.
These kinds of HPV are spread during sexual contact and will be discussed in detail in the next paragraph
Other subtypes can cause common warts like hand warts and plantar warts on the feet but these aren’t sexually transmitted.
How do you get it?
While there are many myths surrounding HPV, the fact is that anyone who has sex can get the virus, even if you only have a single sexual partner. You can get it through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse with anyone who already has the virus in their system. The infected person does not even need to be exhibiting symptoms to spread the virus to their partner.
Condoms, used correctly from start to finish with each sexual encounter, will provide some protection and will reduce the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, HIV and gonorrhea. However, the virus may be present in areas of skin that are not covered by condoms, so it is possible for to be transmitted even if a condom is used.
Furthermore, many people who have been infected never experience any symptoms, or those symptoms may appear many months or even years after they initially contract the virus.
HPV and Cancer
There are different HPV types – some are considered “low-risk” and others “high-risk”. Low-risk HPV types cause genital warts and do not cause cancer. High-risk HPV types are responsible for:
- almost all cases of cervical cancer
- 90% of anal cancers
- 78% of vaginal cancers
- 25% of vulvar cancers
- 50% of penile cancers
- 60% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).
HPV and Genital Warts
Genital warts are caused by HPV. Types 6 and 11 cause most genital warts and these types are considered low risk.
Genital warts can be spread through sex or skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has the virus. The virus can be spread to or from the genitals, anus, mouth, or throat during sexual activities. As mentioned earlier, you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
These warts can be different sizes and shapes and they may appear alone or in groups. Warts may look like tiny bunches of cauliflower or like flat, skin-colored bumps and can show up in the groin, on and around the genitals, in the urethra or in the rectum or anus.
Removal of genital warts can be tricky. Topical agents such as Aldara, Imiquad and Trichloroacetic acid may work for smaller warts but stand no chance against larger or pedunculated warts.
Surgical removal with electrocautery or cryotherapy remains the best methods of removal because its quick and relatively painless.
How do you prevent HPV?
The best way to prevent HPV is with a vaccine. In 2010, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia through the school-based services introduced the HPV vaccination program for school girls at age 13.
HPV vaccines are highly effective at preventing almost all genital HPV infections, including genital warts, and preventing HPV-related cellular changes or cancer developing.
Vaccination is highly recommended for both females and males and, ideally, should be completed prior to becoming sexually active. For people who are already sexually active, the vaccine is still hugely beneficial as it will prevent the acquisition of new HPV infections for the strains the vaccine covers and certain studies have shown that the vaccine may even regress current warts and prevent recurrence.
The emotional impact of finding out that you or your partner has HPV can sometimes be worse than the actual infection. Explain to your partner that with vaccination and safer sex practices, you can continue to have a healthy sex life while avoiding stress and anxiety. If you or your partner need further information about HPV, don’t be afraid to visit a medical professional near you.