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How well do you know about Human Papillomavirus?



Human Papillomavirus

Blessing Belonwu


Are you thinking that HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the only virus that affects human sexual health and general body wellness?


Well, you might have to think again because other forms of viruses like Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Herpes simplex Virus (HSV) and, hepatitis B do exist and, when contracted, they pose various forms of threats to a person’s sexual/ reproductive health and general body wellness.


However, conversations around the knowledge of  Human Papillomavirus is not commonly discussed unlike Hepatitis B or even HIV and, this has contributed to a reduced level of its awareness, especially among young persons in Northern and Southern Nigeria.


To increase the level of awareness of HPV, subsequent paragraphs on this page will help you understand the meaning of HPV, its causes, risk factors, possible treatments and management.


What is Human Papillomavirus?


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a subtype of viral infection that is transmitted from person to person through physical or skin-to-skin contact.

Human Papillomavirus exists in numerous varieties, some of which are passed through sexual intercourse and can affect your mouth, throat, or genitals.

Studies have revealed that some cases of HPV infection on one’s genitals may not cause any health problems, while some types of HPV could cause the development of genital warts and even possible cancers of the throat, cervix, and anus.


Is HPV transmitted through Sexual contact only?


The answer is No.

The virus that leads to one having HPV infection is transmitted directly through physical or skin-to-skin contact. Also, most people who contracts genital HPV infection got it through direct sexual contact – vaginal, anal, and oral sex.


How common is HPV?


According to WHO, HPV infection is so common that most sexually active persins will contract some types of HPV at some point, even if they have few sexual partners.


HPV symptoms


HPV infection often does not cause any noticeable symptoms or health problems.

However, sometimes, genital warts are an indication that one has been infected with a certain variety of HPV.

Studies have shown that the varieties of HPV that cause warts are different from the types that cause cancer. In other words, this means that having genital warts caused by HPV doesn’t mean that you will eventually develop cancer.

Meanwhile, cancers caused by HPV often do not present symptoms until the cancer is in its advanced stages.

Some varieties of HPV can lead to having vagina,cervical ,anus or throat cancers.


HPV tests

Testing for HPV is different in men and in women.

For women, it is recommended that they should have a pap smear or pap test before the age of 25. Regular Pap tests help in identifying abnormal cells as it can detect the presence of abnormal cells that cause cervical cancer and other HPV- related issues.

However, if a Pap smear result appears abnormal, your gynaecologist may conduct a follow-up investigation called Colposcopy.

But in men, there is currently no approved HPV diagnosis

Though, some doctors may carry out anal Pap tests for men who engage in anal sex because there is an increased risk of developing anal cancer.


Treatments and management of HPV


Currently, there’s no treatment for the infection as most cases of HPV go away on their own. However, your doctor will have you carry out tests repeatedly, within a year, to see if the infection has caused any cell changes or if the infection is persistent.


In this case, a follow-up investigation would likely be carried out.


While you may try to manage the outbreak of Genital warts by treating it with prescriptions, getting rid of the warts does not cure the virus itself as there is a tendency that the warts may return.

HPV facts


  1. Because HPV is a skin-to-skin infection, intercourse isn’t necessary for transmission to occur.


  1. Many people contract HPV without knowing it, this means you can still get it even if your partner doesn’t have any symptoms. It’s also possible for a person to have multiple types/varieties of HPV.


  1. A mother who has HPV can transmit the virus to her baby during childbirth. When this happens, the child might likely develop a medical condition called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis – the growth of HPV-related warts inside their throat or airways.


  1. Certain types of HPV can cause cervical changes that lead to cancer, and it often takes many years to develop.


  1. Some HPV infections often go away on their own without causing cancer.


  1. Regular tests/ screenings can help detect HPV-related health problems earlier which can help increase chances of survival.