Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): Is It In You?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world with its highest prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Most people who are sexually active will get the virus at one point in their lives. Unfortunately very few studies have been done about this disease in Nigeria. 
There are over 100 types of HPV. Some types may go unnoticed, while others can cause serious health problems including genital warts and cancers.

You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected making it hard to know when you first became infected.

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. 70% of cervical cancer cases worldwide are caused by HPV. In Nigeria, about 67% of invasive cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Recently a well-known former DG of NAFDAC died from cervical cancer. 
HPV can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.
There is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer or other health problems. People with weak immune systems (including individuals with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV and more likely to develop health problems from it. 

Get vaccinated. HPV vaccines are safe and effective. They can protect males and females against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given in the recommended age groups(roughly 9-26yrs). HPV vaccines are given in three shots over six months; it is important to get all three doses.
Get screened for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer.
Use condoms every time you have sex. This can lower your chances of getting HPV. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom - so condoms may not give full protection against getting HPV. 
Be in a mutually monogamous relationship – or have sex only with someone who only has sex with you.

There is no specific treatment for HPV. However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause. Genital warts can be treated by you or your physician with the right medication. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number. Cervical precancer can also be treated. Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops. Prevention is always better than treatment. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about HPV today.

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