HPV stands for human papillomavirus. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection which usually causes no symptoms and goes away by itself, but can sometimes cause serious illnesses. Almost all cases of genital warts and cervical cancer are due to HPV. There are many different HPV types, which are considered either ‘low risk' or ‘high risk'. Four out of five people have at least one type of HPV at some time in their lives. It is sometimes called ‘the common cold' of sexual activity. HPV infects both men and women. The virus is transferred from one person to the other through sexual intimate contact, usually without the person ever knowing it. You can be exposed to HPV the first time sexual activity occurs, from only one sexual partner.The types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts are spread through genital-skin to genital-skin contact (not just penetrative sex). The virus enters the body through tiny breaks in the skin. Condoms offer some but not total protection from HPV, as they don't cover all of the genital skin. Practicing safe sex, and not having multiple sexual partners reduces the risk. Regular Pap smears and sexual health screening is vital.
Women’s Health Educator
Health Information Line, Women’s Health Queensland Wide
Women living in Queensland can also call our Health Information Line - a free information and referral service for Queensland women - on 3839 9988 or 1800 017 676 (toll free outside Brisbane).
Please note that all health information provided by Women’s Health Queensland Wide is subject to this disclaimer
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