HPV stands for human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least half of sexually active Americans have genital HPV. The rates for adolescents are higher, with 50 percent to 80 percent having the infection within three years of becoming sexually active.
Some HPV viruses, of which there are more than 40 types, often exhibit no symptoms and go away without treatment, while others cause minor and major health problems. Some HPVs cause genital warts. Other HPVs are oncogenic, i.e. viruses which cause cancer. HPVs are linked to cervical and anal cancers. Some of these viruses also are associated with cancers of the penis, vulva, and vagina.
There are presently no medical treatments for HPV itself. The symptoms may be treated; physicians can surgically remove warts and lesions associated with HPV and treat HPV-related cancer. Couples can reduce the risk of transmitting HPV with correct and consistent use of condoms. A more promising area is in prevention. The Food and Drug Administration has approved two vaccines, Gardasil® and Cervarix®, which have been shown to prevent persistent infections.
About the author:
With more than three decades of experience in women’s health, Dr. Ben Ramaley specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at Southport Women’s Healthcare in Connecticut. Dr. Ramaley completed his OB/GYN residency at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.