HPV, also known as the Human Papilloma Virus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is contracted via genital skin-to-skin contact, and even those who use condoms as a means of contraception, are at risk for contracting HPV because condoms do not cover the entire genital area.
It is important to note that HPV is completely asymptomatic – meaning that if you are infected with the virus, you will not show any physical symptoms like you would with many other viruses. There are health complications that can arise from having HPV, such as genital warts and an increase risk of cervical and anal cancer.
The High Risk HPV viruses cause cell changes that lead to cervical cancer, if left untreated.
While performing a pap smear, PGOMG providers will collect cells from a patient’s cervix, and these cells will be sent to a lab for analysis. If the lab reports that a pap smear is abnormal, DNA analysis will be ordered. There is currently no anti viral medication for HPV, but in a few years for the body will clear the infection on its own.
PGOMG recommends that patients receive the Gardasil vaccine to immunize against HPV between the ages of 16 and 18, although patients (male and female) can begin to receive the Gardasil vaccine at age 11 and up until age 26 (based on CDC recommendations). The Gardasil vaccine is administered in three stages over a six-month period.
If you are sexually active, your chances of contracting HPV are high, and the Gardasil vaccine can protect you. If you are not sexually active, then the HPV vaccine is a preventative measure to protect against the HPV virus in the future.
If you are interested in scheduling your annual well women exam, or if you would like to know more about the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, please contact your PGOMG provider.