Human papillomavirus (HPV, sometimes incorrectly referred to as the HPV virus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 80 million people in the United States currently have an HPV infection and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. The CDC states that HPV is so common that nearly all men and women who have sex will get it at some point in their lives. The National Health Service (NHS) estimates that 90% of sexually active individuals will be exposed to HPV in the United Kingdom by the time they turn 25.
HPV is spread during intimate skin-to-skin contact and can also be spread to a newborn during birth.
Avoiding HPV infection means avoiding all intimate manual and genital contact with another person for an entire lifetime. HPV has been found in young women and men who report no to limited penetrative sexual activity, reaffirming the importance of vaccination prior to any form of sexual activity. HPV is also transmitted through all forms of sex, including oral sex. Some studies show that there may also be oral-to-oral transmission of HPV, but more research is needed to show whether this transmission is possible through kissing.
Fortunately, those with an HPV infection will clear the infection within two years, 90% of the time. For those with persistent HPV, the virus can develop into anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, vulvar, and head and neck cancers. HPV is responsible for approximately 5% of all cancers globally, causing 570,000 cancers worldwide. Every year, HPV causes over 33,000 new cases of cancer in the US and over 7,000 new cases of cancer in the UK.
With prevention methods like vaccination and screening, we can get these numbers to zero.