What is HPV?
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. It is a very common infection and most women get it at some time in their life. In most cases it clears up by itself without the need for treatment. But in some women the virus persists, placing them at greater risk of developing cervical abnormalities (CIN) which may need treatment.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is known to cause a number of ailments, ranging from issues as benign as common warts to life threatening diseases such as cervical cancer.
How do people get HPV?
HPV is a very common infection among people who have been sexually active at some time in their life. It is easily transmitted during sex between men and women and between partners of the same sex. The virus shows no symptoms, so it is possible that
- Someone may have had the infection for many years without knowing about it
- A partner may have been infected years earlier and, again, be unaware of it
The HPV vaccine
It gives protection against the most high risk strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), including ones which cause cervical, mouth and genital cancers.
Gardasil and Cervarix are the two HPV vaccines available, and both protect against the two most common high-risk types of the virus: 16 and 18. These strains are linked to over 70% of cervical cancers, and most anal, penile and mouth cancers. Gardasil vaccine which also protects against types 6 and 11 of the virus, which are responsible for around 90% of genital warts. Cervarix vaccine protects against the high-risk HPV strains linked to cancer.
It is important that women who have been vaccinated continue to take up the offer of cervical smear testing later in life, so that other kinds of cervical cancer can be picked up.
HPV vaccinations are recommended for all children of ages 9 to 15. The process requires 2 injections administered at least 6 months apart.
If the vaccination is administered when an individual is older (above 15 years) — 3 doses are required.
Both males and females can receive the vaccination until the age of 25.
Regardless of HPV vaccination status, cancer screening by Pap test, visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) and/or HPV testing are also recommended as vaccine does not prevent against all high risk HPV viruses.