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July 19, 2010

How to Prevent HPV and Cervical Cancer

Filed under: HPV — Tags: , , , , , — Amanda @ 12:20 pm

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection that infects 75% of young women before the age of 50 if they aren’t vaccinated.  There are more than 40 types of HPV but the most common ones type are type 6, 11, 16, and 18.  HPV infects the genital area and causes genital warts, abnormal pap tests, and cervical cancer.  Since HPV is a virus, there is no real cure for it and it is often undetectable until a herpes infection flares up.  This means that the virus can be passed on to many partners before you know you have it.  Once you contract HPV you can have it for your whole life; however it tends to get worse or flare up when your immune system is compromised.

Preventing HPV

Unfortunately you are never completely safe from HPV – you are always at risk of contracting the virus.  The best defense is to always use condoms during every sex act – from start the finish. HPV can infect the mouth and throat as well.  Condoms aren’t always a reliable defense, and HPV can still be passed on during condom use if a woman’s labia touch the base of a man’s penis, but they are the best physical defense.

Vaccines are available that protect males and females agasint the most common types of HPV and cervical cancer. It is recommended that girls and boys between 11 and 26 get the Gardasil vaccine.  This is to be given in three doses over a six month period. Though Gardasil is highly effective at preventing HPV, it is not a cure, and it only protects agasint the most common types of HPV.

People in a faithful relationship with one partner, people who limit their number of sex partners, or people who choose a partner who has had few or no other sex partners can reduce their chances of contracting HPV. But even people who have only had one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, and it is hard to determine if a partner who has had previous partners is currently infected.

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