HPV Key Facts

HPV infection - key information

  • Vaccination against HPV has been available for many years and everyone who is eligible should have it.
  • 80% of 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.
  • There are treatments for genital warts and abnormal cells.
  • There is no treatment to eliminate HPV itself. HPV is usually dealt with by your body’s immune system.
  • 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 warts.
  • 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.
  • There are 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 HPV.
  • 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 HPV.
  • 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 partner’s health.
  • Most cervical cancers can be prevented by HPV vaccination and having regular cervical screening. Vaccination, regular screening and following the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) recommended guidelines if any abnormalities are identified, is the most effective pathway for women to follow to prevent invasive cervical cancer developing. See Preventing HPV Cancers by Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

Prevention - key information

  • HPV vaccination, ideally before ever having sex, is the first line of defence and the most effective way of preventing HPV. See Preventing HPV Cancers by Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. (www.hpv.org.nz)
  • 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.

HPV Project New Zealand

The NZ HPV Project is supported by:

  • An educational grant from New Zealand District Health Boards
  • CSL Biotherapies Ltd NZ for an educational grant contributing to optimisation.

Brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF).

For information or advice on where to seek help, please get in touch.

YouTube-logo-2017-logotype.png Just The Facts – about Sexual Health and STIs

CONTACT US



C/- Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation Inc (STIEF)

PO Box 2437, Shortland Street,
Auckland 1140, New Zealand

[email protected]

Tollfree: 0508 11 12 13
If calling from mobile: 09 433 6526

DONATE to help others

About HPV

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are extremely common viruses

HPV is thought to be the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world, and most people are infected with HPV at some time in their lives.

 

What is HPV?

The New Zealand HPV Project website has been developed to inform New Zealanders all about HPV and to offer HPV help for men and women.

HPV is short for human papillomavirus, the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 150 different types that cause infection on the surface of the skin. More than 40 HPV types infect the anogenital area and throat (pharynx and larynx) and the majority are sexually transmitted.

HPV can be present as an infection of the skin which is not visible to the naked eye (subclinical infection). Therefore, many people with genital HPV do not know they have it. The virus can also cause visible genital warts. Warts on other parts of the body, such as the hands, are caused by different types of HPV. A person may be infected with more than one HPV type at the same time. 

How is HPV transmitted?

HPV lives in the surface layers of the skin. HPV infection usually results from direct skin-to-skin contact during intimate sexual contact with someone who has HPV. The virus can be transmitted by penetrative as well as non-penetrative sexual contact (genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, oral-anal).

HPV is not transmitted via blood or body fluids e.g. semen.

Because HPV is so common, having HPV is considered a natural consequence of being sexually active. Almost every person will have HPV on their skin at some point in their life, regardless of sexual practice or sexual preference. It is possible for a person to infect another without even knowing they have the virus. HPV statistics show at least 70% of partners of people with HPV also have the infection.

Without vaccination, 80% of adults will contract this viral infection at some point in their lives. It is nothing to be ashamed about.

When did the HPV infection occur?

It is impossible to know when an HPV infection occurred. HPV can lie dormant for months, or even many years, before the emergence of genital warts or cervical abnormalities. 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.

Some experts believe that in rare cases HPV may be transmitted through non-sexual contact, for example, an object that carries infectious material. However, this is still an area of controversy. In the end, science simply doesn’t have explanations for these rare instances of possible non-sexual transmission.

Is there an HPV test?

Unfortunately, there is no swab or blood test to make an HPV diagnosis . As most HPV infections clear spontaneously, it is impossible to know whether in some cases the immune system has completely cleared the HPV from the body, or whether the virus remains at undetectable levels, capable of re-emerging if the immune system weakens. New tests may in the future be able to clarify this.

Can HPV be treated?

The answer is yes, and no...

There are several available treatments for genital HPV wart removal, although treatment is optional. Read more about HPV diagnosis and treatment here.

There are links between cancers such as cervical cancer and HPV, but please be reassured that a diagnosis of HPV infection does not equate to cancer. HPV infections are divided into low-risk HPV (lrHPV) types, which are not associated with pre-cancer or cancer, and high-risk HPV (hrHPV) types, which are associated with pre-cancer and cancer. Warty lesions in the anogenital and oral areas are usually caused by low-risk (lrHPV). There are treatment options available for high grade cervical abnormalities.

No treatment is available for HPV that is 'silent' i.e. has no symptoms. However the majority of HPV is naturally cleared by the body's immune system within 1-2 years.

A key point is that HPV is preventable. Vaccination against HPV infection has been available for many years, and protects you from developing HPV cancers. Immunisation against HPV infection is available in the form of the nine valent vaccine (HPV9). 

Chose a topic below to learn more about HPV.

About HPV

About HPV

HPV is thought to be the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world, and most people are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. The New Zealand HPV Project website has been developed to inform New Zealanders all about HPV and to offer HPV help for men…
HPV Key Facts

HPV Key Facts

HPV infection - key information – Vaccination against HPV has been available for many years. 80% of 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…
HPV Strains

HPV Strains

Papilloma is a word that means a small wart-like growth on the skin or mucous membrane. There are many types of papilloma infections - even some that your pet may get. For example, dogs get canine papillomaviruses. So if you are wondering, “can you get HPV from animals?” the…
HPV & Cancer

HPV & Cancer

While HPV is an extremely common infection, and there is a link between HPV and cervical, anal, penile, some vulval and throat cancers, it is important to realise that very few women and men with HPV will ever develop cancer.
HPV & Throat Cancer

HPV & Throat Cancer

HPV is transmitted to your mouth by oral sex. It may also be possible to get oral HPV in other ways. An increased number of oral sex partners increases your chances of catching an oral HPV infection.
HPV & Cervical Cancer

HPV & Cervical Cancer

Some types of HPV are linked to abnormal cell changes on the cervix which place women at higher risk of abnormal cervical smears and developing cervical cancer. But the vast majority of women with an HPV infection never get abnormal cervical smears or cervical cancer. Your own…
HPV & Other Cancers

HPV & Other Cancers

HPV and penile cancer – HPV-related penile cancers most often affect the ‘head’ of the penis and are rare. HPV and anal cancer – HPV-associated anal cancers are becoming more common in both women and men. HPV and males who are immunocompromised or living with HIV – Men who are…
FAQ

FAQ

Frequently asked questions and key facts about HPV – Human Papillomavirus – FAQ's
HPV & Relationships

HPV & Relationships

The emotional impact of finding out that you or your partner has an STI can sometimes be worse than the actual infection. It’s really important to gain some perspective about an STI diagnosis before any assumptions are made - and this is especially true with HPV.
About HPV

About HPV

HPV is thought to be the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world, and most people are infected with HPV at some time in their…
HPV Key Facts

HPV Key Facts

HPV infection - key information – Vaccination against HPV has been available for many years. 80% of unvaccinated adults will pick up HPV at some point…
HPV Strains

HPV Strains

Papilloma is a word that means a small wart-like growth on the skin or mucous membrane. There are many types of papilloma infections - even some that…
HPV & Cancer

HPV & Cancer

While HPV is an extremely common infection, and there is a link between HPV and cervical, anal, penile, some vulval and throat cancers, it is…
HPV & Throat Cancer

HPV & Throat Cancer

HPV is transmitted to your mouth by oral sex. It may also be possible to get oral HPV in other ways. An increased number of oral sex partners…
HPV & Cervical Cancer

HPV & Cervical Cancer

Some types of HPV are linked to abnormal cell changes on the cervix which place women at higher risk of abnormal cervical smears and developing…
HPV & Other Cancers

HPV & Other Cancers

HPV and penile cancer – HPV-related penile cancers most often affect the ‘head’ of the penis and are rare. HPV and anal cancer – HPV-associated anal…
FAQ

FAQ

Frequently asked questions and key facts about HPV – Human Papillomavirus – FAQ's
HPV & Relationships

HPV & Relationships

The emotional impact of finding out that you or your partner has an STI can sometimes be worse than the actual infection. It’s really important to…
HPV Project New Zealand

The NZ HPV Project is supported by: 

  • An educational grant from New Zealand District Health Boards
  • CSL Biotherapies Ltd NZ for an educational grant contributing to optimisation.

Brought to you by the Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation (STIEF). 

For information or advice on where to seek help, please get in touch.

YouTube-logo-2017-logotype.png   Just The Facts – about Sexual Health and STIs

CONTACT US


New Zealand HPV Project
C/- Sexually Transmitted Infections Education Foundation Inc (STIEF)

PO Box 2437, Shortland Street,
Auckland 1140, New Zealand

[email protected]

Tollfree: 0508 11 12 13
If calling from mobile: 09 433 6526

DONATE to help others