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HPV: Putting A Stop To The Myths Surrounding This Infection


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, yet it remains surrounded by numerous myths and misconceptions. Understanding the facts about HPV is crucial for prevention, treatment, and reducing stigma.

Myth 1: HPV is rare 

Fact: Quite the opposite. It’s actually really common, so common in fact that four in every five people (80%) will have the virus at some point in their lives – which is why clueing ourselves up on it is so important.

Myth 2: Only Promiscuous People Get HPV

Fact: HPV is extremely common, and nearly all sexually active individuals will contract at least one type of the infection at some point in their lives. It can affect anyone who is sexually active, regardless of the number of partners they have had. Even people with only one lifetime partner can contract it if their partner has been exposed to the virus.

Myth 3: The Infection Always Shows Symptoms

Fact: Most people with HPV do not experience any symptoms and may not even know they are infected. The body’s immune system often clears the virus on its own within two years. However, some types of the infection can cause genital warts, while high-risk types can lead to various cancers, such as cervical, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers, often years after the initial infection.

Myth 4: It Only Affects Women

Fact: HPV affects both men and women. While women are often more associated with the infection due to its link to cervical cancer, men are also at risk for HPV-related health issues, including genital warts and cancers of the anus, penis, and oropharynx (throat). Vaccination and safe sexual practices are important for both genders.

Myth 5: Condoms Fully Protect Against HPV

Fact: While condoms significantly reduce the risk of contracting HPV, they do not offer complete protection. The infection can infect areas not covered by a condom, such as the genital or anal areas. However, using condoms consistently and correctly is still an effective way to lower the risk of other sexually transmitted infections.

Myth 6: The HPV Vaccine is Only for Girls

Fact: The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls. Vaccinating boys helps prevent the spread of the virus and protects them against cancers and genital warts associated with HPV. The vaccine is most effective when given before individuals become sexually active, but it can still benefit those who are already sexually active.

Myth 7: The HPV Vaccine is Unsafe

Fact: The HPV vaccine has been extensively studied and proven to be safe and effective. Like any vaccine, it can have side effects, but they are generally mild and temporary, such as pain at the injection site, dizziness, or mild fever. The benefits of preventing HPV-related cancers and diseases far outweigh the risks of these minor side effects.

Myth 8: If You Have It, You Will Get Cancer

Fact: While certain high-risk types of the infection can lead to cancer, most infections do not result in cancer. The body’s immune system often clears the virus before it causes serious health issues. Regular screenings, such as Pap tests and HPV tests for women, are essential for early detection and prevention of related cancers.

Myth 9: You Can’t Get HPV If You’re In a Monogamous Relationship

Fact: While being in a monogamous relationship can reduce the risk of contracting it, it does not eliminate it. If one partner was exposed to the virus in a previous relationship, they can still transmit the virus. HPV can remain dormant for years, making it possible for someone to contract it from a long-term partner.

Myth 10: Smoking has no effect on the development of the HPV virus

Fact: Smoking is actually a major risk factor for developing cervical cancer. If you smoke, your immune system around the cells of the cervix may be weakened, making it harder for the body to prevent and clear high-risk infections which could cause abnormal cells to develop.

Understanding the facts is essential for preventing its spread and protecting your health. By debunking these common myths, we hope to encourage informed discussions and promote proactive measures such as vaccination and regular screenings. Remember, it is a common virus, but with the right knowledge and precautions, its impact can be significantly minimised.

If you have any concerns or questions about HPV click here to book an appointment, or contact us to speak to one of our doctors. 

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