More than 20 million people in America are infected with human papillomavirus, according to the American Social Health Association.
This is the most common STD in the United States.
Approximately 5.5 million new cases of sexually transmitted HPV infections are reported every year.
According to the ASHA, 80 percent of sexually active people will contract HPV at least once in their lifetime.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, 30 are sexually transmitted and although most are harmlesssome can cause genital warts and even cancer.
HPV is so widespread, a person does not have to have multiple sexual partners to contract it.
Monique Potter, FAMU’s health educator, said there is a lack of knowledge about HPV and people have the attitude that they won’t get it.
According to the National Hotline for HPV, three out of four people ages 15-49 have been infected with this virus and many don’t know it.
Women in their twenties are twice as likely to be infected than women in their fifties, while men 30 and older are more likely than younger men to be infected.
“What many people don’t know is that (HPV) is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact, and there are usually no symptoms,” said Christine Gajda, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of North Central Florida.
Condoms help, but do not prevent all strands of this virus because someone can be infected in areas the condom does not cover.
It is possible to contract HPV by simply touching infected areas.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, some types of HPV can only be detected in women through a pap smear test. Yet, many times doctors don’t see any symptoms so women think they are not infected.
In some instances, people can put vinegar on the area that might be infected. Vinegar whitens the area, making it more visible.
Men have to actually see bumps or warts developing on their penis to know if they are infected.
Warts can mean that you have been infected with the most common of the 100 different types of HPV, genital warts.
Genital warts can spread during oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner.
In women, warts can be outside or inside of the vagina.
In some rare cases warts are found in mouths and throats. Although, women and men get the virus, women are more likely to get genital warts than men.
“Women are at a bigger risk of getting cancer than men,” said Anjeanique Smith, a licensed nurse at Shands hospital in Jacksonville. “If women have abnormal pap smears then it can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina or anus. Cervical cancer is the most common in women with HPV. This happens when the cells change and become abnormal. It also may take 10 to 20 years for the cancer to develop.”
Men who have sex with men are at risk for developing cancer of the anus, and heterosexual men can develop cancer of the penis according to www.healthandhpv.com.
“This virus has no known cures, but it is treatable,” Smith said.
If warts appear, you can freeze them or use acid, which clears the warts.
In some cases, after about two to three weeks the warts disappear without any type of treatment.
Although symptoms may be gone, you can still infect someone.
“If you plan on having sex with someone and you are infected you will pass that infection onto that person.
If you have been treated, you should wait months before having sex,” Smith said.
Many cases of people who are infected are unknown.
“There is no way of tracking the number of cases at FAMU because there are about 13,000 students at the University but only about 200 reports to this clinic,” Potter said. “Students go to other clinics and have their own private doctors.”
Gajda said having this virus doesn’t mean your life is over.
“It means you have an opportunity to let people know about the risk of this virus and to be careful. The best way to prevent this virus is to continually get checked and limit the number of sex partners, because the more people you are intimate with the more chances you have of getting HPV,” Gajda said.
Contact Shyla Flowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.