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Published:November 1st, 2007 08:26 EST
What You Must Know: HPV

What You Must Know: HPV

By Amy Spagnola

What is HPV?

It may sound like the latest band or the initials of a school, but HPV is actually one of the most common causes of sexually transmitted infection in the world. Some doctors believe it is as common a virus as a cold. About six million people get HPV each year and more than half are between 15 and 25 years old.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) are a group of more than 100 viruses. HPV is transmitted through direct genital contact or during sexual intercourse. It is not spread through bodily fluids nor does it exist in blood. However, not having sex is not assurance that there will be no contraction of the disease. Oral to genital or hand to genital contact might spread the disease. In addition, when you are sexually active be prepared to protect yourself. Half to three-fourths of people, who have ever had sex, will be infected with HPV at some point in their life. HPV is usually diagnosed from an abnormal Pap smear test.

However, why care about HPV when there are so many other STD`s to worry about?

1.)    Most people will never know they have HPV because no significant disease develops until cell changes; these changes lead to cancer
2.)    HPV can cause genital warts but they may occur until years after exposure
3.)    Almost ALL of cervical cancers are related to HPV
4.)    Of all cervical cancers, 70 percent are caused by HPV
5.)    Condoms provide some, but not total protection from HPV
6.)    The risk of HPV increases with the number of sexual partners
7.)    Pap tests-done during a gynecological exam can detect changes in the cervix that might lead to cancer
8.)    Over 5,000 women each year die of cervical cancer in the United States
9.)    About 20 million men and women are thought to have an active HPV infection at any given time

The food and drug administration recently approved Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against four HPV types. Another vaccine, Cervarix is currently being tested. These vaccines guard against viral infection; they are highly effective in preventing HPV with the types they target. Widespread use of the vaccines might reduce cervical cancer deaths by as much as two-thirds. The vaccines are recommended for an individual before they become sexually active. The FDA approved Gardasil for women between the ages of nine to 26 years of age.

To find out more about news on the vaccine, insurance policies and other information about cervical cancer:

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