Vaccination against HPV has been available for many years and everyone who is
eligible should have it.
unvaccinated adults will pick up HPV at some point in their life. In most people,
it causes no
symptoms (you won’t know you have it) so is therefore unavoidably shared mainly
through sexual (including oral) skin-to-skin contact.
In most people the virus is harmless and causes no symptoms and will not develop into
warts, pre-cancer or cancer.
In a few people, HPV causes
genital warts which are undesirable but harmless.
In a few people, HPV can cause
abnormal cells which can sometimes lead to
cancers in both men and women, including cervical, vaginal, vulval, anal, head and neck cancers
and penile cancers.
Partners will inevitably share HPV. There is no way to know which partner it
came from or how long ago. Having HPV does not mean that a person or their partner
is having sex outside the current relationship.
treatments for genital warts and abnormal cells.
There is no treatment to eliminate HPV itself. HPV is usually dealt with by your body’s
HPV does not affect fertility.
HPV does not stop you having a normal sex life.
There is no single HPV test (such as a blood test) to check for HPV status at multiple
body sites. This means there is no test that can help answer the questions “Do I
have HPV?”, “Does my partner have HPV?”, “Has my HPV gone?”, “Can I have the vaccine?”
Anogenital warts - key information
Routine STI screening does not include testing for either HPV or
HSV (genital herpes). There is no sure way to know when HPV was acquired.
If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or increase in size or number.
If warts are in the pubic region avoid shaving or waxing as this may spread the warts.
Genital warts do not turn into cancer.
The types of HPV that cause genital warts rarely cause cancer.
Women with genital warts need to have
regular cervical screening and follow the same management pathways as women without
visible genital warts.
Genital warts can develop months or years after acquiring an infection with HPV. Genital
warts can be passed on to another person even when there are no visible signs of
There is no sure way to know when HPV was acquired. Sex partners who have been together
tend to share HPV, even when both partners do not show signs of HPV. The presence
of genital warts does not mean that a person or their partner is having sex outside
the current relationship.
Although genital warts are common and benign, this can be an upsetting diagnosis.
treatments for the conditions caused by HPV, such as genital warts. However,
treating genital warts does not treat the virus itself. For this reason, it is possible
for genital warts to come back after treatment, especially in the first 3 months.
Inform current sexual partner(s) that genital warts may be transmitted to a partner.
Partner(s) may benefit from getting tested for other STIs. A current partner may
already have HPV, even though they may not have visible signs of warts.
Condoms may lower the chances of
transmitting genital warts if used with every sex act; however, HPV can infect
areas that are not covered by a condom and condoms may not fully protect against
There is an
HPV vaccine available for males and females that prevents genital warts but it
will not treat existing HPV or genital warts. This vaccine can prevent most cases
of genital warts in persons who have not yet been exposed to wart-causing types of
There is no known health benefit to informing future partner(s) if a person has had genital
warts in the past, because the virus often clears by natural immunity.
Cervical cancer screening - key information
HPV is a common infection and often clears by natural immunity. A positive HPV test does
not mean that a person has cancer. Most women who have HPV do not develop abnormal
cells or cancer.
HPV is often shared between partners and can lie dormant for many years; having HPV does
not imply other sexual contacts, nor should it necessarily raise concerns about a
Condoms used consistently and correctly may lower the chances of acquiring and
transmitting HPV and developing HPV-related diseases, such as genital warts and
cervical cancer. However, HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom,
so condoms do not fully protect against HPV.