The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection that can lead to serious health problems such as genital warts, warts in the throat, cervical cancer in women, as well as other oral and genital (sex organ) cancers in men and women. HPV is not the same as herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS); each has different symptoms and causes different health problems.
Anyone who is sexually active, has ever had sex, and even individuals with one lifetime partner are at risk for getting HPV infection. Babies can become infected from their mothers during birth. HPV is passed through vaginal, anal, oral and genital- to-genital contact. Most people do not realize that they have the HPV infection, or are passing the infection on to a sex partner. HPV infection can last for years after the initial contact with the infected person.
Protect yourself and lower the chances of getting the HPV infection by:
(1) Getting the HPV vaccine (recommended for girls/women and boys/men ages 11-26).
(2) Using condoms if you are sexually active.
(3) Limiting the number of sex partners, choosing a partner who has had no or few sex partners, and committing to a faithful relationship with one partner.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent HPV infection. HPV vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) are safe and effective. They are recommended before becoming sexually active, but can be given if one is already sexually active. HPV vaccines can protect against cancers and most genital warts. HPV vaccines are given in three shots over a six-month period starting at age 11-12 years of age, but older teens and young adults should also start or complete their HPV vaccine series.
Fulton County Public Health offers HPV vaccine to Vaccine For Children eligible children under the age of 19. Contact Fulton County Public Health at 736-5720 or your health-care provider for further information.
This column was submitted by Fulton County Public Health.