5 Common Myths About HPV, Debunked

Everything you really need to know about the sexually transmitted infection.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. However, the wide range of HPV strands can mean that there are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding the virus. Here are some of the common myths about HPV, debunked.

Myth: HPV is a rare virus

There are over 100 different types of HPV. The virus can be transferred through vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse, genital contact with an infected person or by non-sexual transmission from mother to baby in the period immediately before and after birth, according to the HSE. Most infections of the HPV strain go unnoticed and can treat themselves.

Clinical diseases of HPV include genital warts, recurrent tumors in the respiratory tract, and precancerous cells in the cervix. Even more seriously, HPV can cause cancer which can be cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile – it also leads to some head and neck cancers.

While the risk of contracting HPV goes up with the number of sexual partners you have, it only takes contact with one infected person to get HPV.

Myth: HPV is only found in women

HPV is widely associated with women as it is found in 99% of cervical cancer cases. Over 500,00 women are diagnosed with cervical cancers globally each year and over 250,000 of those will die from the disease, which shows the importance of the HPV vaccine. In Ireland, around 90 women will die from cervical cancer each year.

However, men often carry HPV and can also get genital warts and forms of cancer such as anal and penile from the virus.

Myth: HPV can be treated by antibiotics

Since HPV is a virus, antibiotics cannot be used to treat it. While some of the viral infections caused by HPV (such as genital warts) can be managed with medication, there is no cure or treatment for the virus. Only the HPV vaccine can help prevent infection.

Since the mass introduction of the HPV vaccination into schools in Ireland for young girls, research has confirmed that it is very effective in reducing cases of cervical cancer, especially in women who were vaccinated between the age of 15 and 26.

Myth: The vaccine protects you from all HPV

While the vaccine is a huge improvement to medicine, it must be remembered that it only protects you from 90% of HPV strains. This can leave you open to the possibility of contracting other forms of HPV, so it’s important to still go for regular cervical checks.

Myth: HPV causes infertility

While HPV should not directly affect your ability to conceive, the virus increases your risk of cervical cancer which can lead to the removal of cancerous or precancerous cells from your cervix, affecting your fertility.

When it comes to HPV, the miseducation that surrounds it can be very terrifying and damaging. While it can have very serious consequences, it should be remembered that the majority of HPV sexually transmitted goes unnoticed or can be treated easily. 

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