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Diseases & Topics

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection

Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection – at half of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. Different types of HPV can infect the genital areas of males and females and can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it, but it can cause genital warts, cervical cancer in women and other, less common, cancers in both men and women.

HPV can be passed on between sexual partners even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. A pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery; the infection can result in hard-to-treat warts in the baby’s throat that can restrict breathing.

Prevention is always better than treatment for HPV. Vaccines can protect people against some of the most common types of HPV. Currently, there are two vaccines available to protect girls against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, and one also protects against genital warts, and cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva. Both vaccines are recommended for preteen girls and boys at 11- and 12-years of age. In addition, HPV vaccines are also recommended for teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger, teen girls and young women through age 26, as well as teen boys and young men through age 21.They can also be given to girls and boys as young as 9. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man).

While there is no treatment for the virus itself, there are treatments for the diseases that HPV can cause.

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