Human Papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common viral sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is spread by sexual skin to skin contact and can be passed through oral, anal and/or vaginal sex. Some strains of HPV cause genital and anal warts. Other strains of HPV can cause forms of cervical, genital and anal cancers.
Symptoms: Small, painless, cauliflower-shaped warts or flat lumps may be visible in the genital area. Some warts may be so small that they are not visible.
In women, warts may appear on the vulva (lips of the vagina), inside the vagina, on the cervix, or around the anus. In men, warts may appear on the penis, pubic area, around the anus, and/or on the testicles.
Testing: If you think you have been exposed to HPV or see visible signs of genital warts, see your healthcare provider for a physical examination. Women can be tested for HPV through a Pap test by a healthcare provider.
Treatment: There is no cure for HPV; however visible genital warts can be treated using methods such as freezing, chemical paint, or cream. Internal warts can be removed surgically or through laser treatments.
Prevention: To reduce your risk of contracting an STI, including HIV, follow these practices:
- Use a condom and/or oral dam properly and consistently each time you are sexually active.
- See your health-care provider or go to a sexual health clinic to be tested for STIs if you are sexually active or starting a sexual relationship with a new partner.
- You and your partner should be tested for STIs before becoming sexually active and then again in three to six months.
You can’t tell if someone has an STI by looking at them; the only way to know is to be tested.
Certain strains of HPV can be prevented by a vaccination that is recommended in Canada for girls and boys nine-26 years of age. See your healthcare provider if you would like your child to receive the HPV vaccine. In Newfoundland and Labrador, HPV vaccination is provided to girls in Grade six though a school vaccination program. Even if a woman has received the HPV vaccine, she still requires routine Pap testing.
Sexually active women should start their first Pap test at age 21 and continue to have a PAP test once a year for the following three years. After that, they should have a PAP test once every three years, unless a health-care provider advises otherwise.
Services related to this information:
811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555