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S E X U A L L Y   T R A N S M I T T E D   D I S E A S E S:
Genital HPV
(Human Papillomavirus)


What is it? Infections are caused either by viruses (like HIV) or bacteria. Genital HPV is an infection caused by a group of viruses (more than 30 different types.) HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. with more than 5 million new cases reported each year. It infects more people every year than any other sexually transmitted disease (STD) including HIV.

How do you get it? Genital HPV is very contagious. It’s transmitted from person to person primarily by:

  • Genital skin-to-skin contact with someone who has genital HPV. Sexual intercourse is not necessary to transmit HPV.

In other words, you can just be “fooling around” while naked, and can get the infection.

What are the symptoms? With genital HPV, usally there are no signs or symptoms for men or women. This makes the infection easy to pass on because people infected with genital HPV may not know they’re infected. Some people will get genital warts within weeks of months after sexual contact with a partner who is infected.

In women genital warts can show up on the:

  • vulva
  • cervix (the opening to the uterus) where the woman may not notice them
  • and inside and surrounding the vagina and anus.

In men genital warts can show up on the:

Sometimes there are no symptoms and a person can still have this viral infection.

How can you know for sure? Visible genital warts or swellings in the genital area need to be examined by a health care profession in order for a diagnosis to be made. Without visible genital warts, HPV can be diagnosed in women from an abnormal Pap smear (a simple test done in a doctor office that indicates changes to the cervix). No HPV tests are yet available for men.

How is it treated? There is no known cure for HPV infection. When present, the genital warts can be treated and may go away. Even so, the infection remains for life. Whenever the genital warts are present, there is a very high risk that the infected person will spread to an uninfected partner. Condoms will not protect against genital HPV because it is spread through skin-to-skin contact, though using condoms may reduce your risk of developing diseases linked to HPV.

What can happen if you don't take care of it? Untreated, the genital warts may go away, but they can return. Most HPV infections do not cause long-term health problems. Most types of the virus do not turn into cancer, though some are associated with cervical cancer and cancer of the penis. If a woman has genital warts at the time she gives birth, it may cause problems during delivery. It’s rare though that the infection is passed on to the baby.

Condoms will not protect against genital HPV.

Learn more about genital HPV

 

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