Human papillomavirus (HPV) is caused by obtaining the virus through direct skin-to-skin contact and during sexual activity with someone who already has HPV. The virus is very common and often goes away on its own. However, certain strains of HPV may lead to more serious health issues.
How HPV Is Spread
HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most commonly, it spreads during vaginal or anal sex. However, it may also spread during oral sex.
No bodily fluids or blood must be exchanged in order for HPV to spread. The risk of becoming infected exists anytime intimate areas come into contact, even if no penetration occurs.
You can get HPV even if you’ve only had sex with one person. If you’ve had sex with multiple partners, there’s no way to know who you got it from, since the virus can take years to cause any symptoms.
Many people don’t realize they have HPV because the virus doesn’t usually produce any symptoms. Often, the virus goes away on its own. Low-risk strains may produce genital warts, while high-risk strains could potentially lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, or the back of the throat.
Will I Get HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It’s so common, in fact, that most people who are sexually active will get HPV at some point in their life.
However, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV:
- Get vaccinated for HPV. If possible, it’s best to get vaccinated before you become sexually active.
- Use latex condoms every time you have sex. HPV can still be spread by contact with areas not covered by a condom, but using one every time will reduce your risk.
- Talk with your sexual partners about testing. Knowing when your partner was last tested for HPV and STIs will help you understand the potential risks.