HPV represents a family of viruses that transmit through skin-to-skin contact. Complete prevention of genital HPV infection requires avoiding all intimate manual and genital contact with another individual for the entirety of your life. This is not a very realistic prescription for many of us!
Nearly every person will contract HPV in their lifetime. HPV transmits very easily and can occur with any type of intimate sexual contact. Evidence suggests that in the US, new HPV infection occurs soon after one’s first sexual debut. A sexually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner can reduce risk, although a person with just one lifetime sexual partner can be infected with HPV. Most people are unaware that they are even infected, and therefore are unable to inform their sexual partners of their status. Even latex condoms, although effective at some protection, are not 100% reliable at preventing infection, as areas of skin not covered by the condom can still transmit the virus to a sexual partner. In addition, HPV can be transmitted during intimacy that does not involve intercourse such as manual stimulation.
The good news is that vaccines are available that protect against the most common disease-causing strains of the virus.
Click on the links below to read more about understanding the HPV vaccine to prevent the virus, as well as learn how to get screened.