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(1) HPV is widely spread. In US more than 50% of sexually active people are infected by the virus at some point (some say this number is close to 75%). (12)

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There are more than 100 different types of HPV. More than 40 of them can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most people with HPV look and feel perfectly healthy. Approximately 80% of those carrying the virus have no idea they are infectedbut they can certainly pass the virus to their sexual partners. In the majority of cases there is no way to know if you are infected with HPV. DNA testing is available only for the strains of the virus that are most likely to cause cancer not for the strains that can cause genital warts. Unless you or your partner have warts, you have no way to know if you are carrying the virus and thus able to infect others. As with many viral infections, there is no cure for HPV. However, in 90% of cases, the immune system gets rid of the virus within two years. Genital warts can be treated. The two main approaches are medication and removal. Removing genital warts doesnt remove the virus. People remain infected, and warts can come back months later. Removing genital warts makes people less likely to pass the virus to their partners, but there is still a chance of transmission. People with genital warts should avoid having sex. Delaying sex until the warts have been removed reduces the chances of infecting a partner. If both partners have HPV, they should still use protection. They might pass different strains of HPV to each other, or they might have the same type of HPV but at different levels of seriousness, and the partner with the milder infection could get worse. It is unlikely to become infected twice by the same strain of HPVbut you might become infected by one of the many others. More than 40 different HPV strains can be passed through sexual contact. (17) (16) (13)

Regular Pap smear testing is the best defense against HPV-induced cervical cancer. The test allows your doctor to detect cells that have gone through abnormal changes and that might eventually evolve into cancer. Then your doctor can take immediate action. Nine out of ten women who develop cervical cancer didnt undergo regular Pap smear testing. It is very difficult to find out who passed you HPV. Symptoms might appear weeks or months after you have been infected, or they might not appear at all. Condoms do not protect you from HPV completely. Some infected areas might fall outside the area covered by the condom and put the partner at risk of contagion. A female condom might provide better protection, since it covers a larger area. There are two vaccines that protect people from the strains of HPV primarily responsible for cervical cancer. One of the two vaccines (Gardasil, manufactured by Merck) also protects against anal, vulvar, and vaginal cancers as well as genital warts. Its important to get HPV vaccines early. The vaccines are usually more effective if you get them before you become sexually active (ages 11 to 13), but their use is recommended up to the age of 26. Continue to get tested for HPV regularly even if you have been vaccinated. Vaccines protect you against most but not all types of HPV that can cause cancer. The vaccine can prevent about 30 percent of cervical cancer cases. Get vaccinated even if you already have genital warts. The strains of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same ones that can cause cancer. Having genital warts only means you have already contracted one of the HPV strains that causes warts. That wont protect you from being infected by the other strains causing warts or by the one causing cancer. Boys should get vaccinated, too! Although the vaccine was introduced for girls ages 11 to 26, in 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started recommending the vaccine also for boys 11 to 21 in order to protect them from cancer in the penis, anus, mouth, and throat.

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