HPV is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection in the U.S. 50% to 75% of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. Most of these infections have no symptoms, so you may be completely unaware that you are infected or infecting a partner.
HPV is actually the name of a group of over 100 strains or types of viruses, 30 of which are sexually transmitted and can affect the penis, vulva, labia, anus, or tissues of the vagina or cervix (opening of the uterus). Some HPV viruses are “high risk” and can cause cervical cancer and abnormal Pap smears, others can cause genital warts (single or multiple growths or bumps in the genital area, sometimes forming a cauliflower shape).
Most women are diagnosed with HPV bases on the results of an abnormal Pap smear. It is very important that if you have ever been sexually active, you have a Pap test done every year. If you have an abnormal Pap test, your doctor may need to do further testing or take further cell samples to further diagnose the abnormality.
There is no known “cure” for HPV, but for most people, the infection becomes undetectable within two years. Persistent infection with certain types of HPV is the key risk factor for cervical cancer.