What you need to know about HPV: Let's talk about sex, baby!
The dating pool in 2020 has had its fair share of challenges. For those not living with their intimate partner, or for the single among us, love in the time of COVID-19 could be complicated. Recently, Canadian health officials have named a new important source of protection during intercourse aside from contraceptives: the mask1.
HPV – the human papillomavirus – can affect three in four men and women throughout their lifetime. With over 100 strains of HPV, it’s estimated that over 70% of sexually active Canadians will have been infected at some point in their life2. To contribute to HPV awareness, here is what you can do to prevent its contraction.
How it’s transmitted
HPV is highly contagious: in fact, it can spread just via wandering hands before couples even get to the point of sex. With people staying single for longer, individuals may choose to have more sexual encounters, so using condoms and getting vaccinated play a crucial role in reducing the probability of transmission.
What are some symptoms of infection?
Most cases solve themselves on their own in due time – and oftentimes, without the carrier even knowing it’s there. In its visible manifestations, HPV can result in genital warts (noticeable bumps commonly found around the genitals) and cervical cancer most commonly, though men and women are both at risk for many other types of genital cancers that can occur as well.
Prevention and vaccination
In Canada, vaccination against HPV can occur before the prospect of a romantic relationship even sounds appealing, as young as the age of nine in girls and boys3. If immunization doesn’t occur in childhood, which is best, women up to 46 years of age and men up to 26 can still make arrangements to get vaccinated. Some science claims that immunization is most effective before the recipient becomes sexually active in the first place.
Also, because cervical cancer is one of the most serious threats of HPV in women, it is imperative to go for all scheduled PAP tests. Early prevention is key.
As it is right now, there is no treatment for HPV4. In many cases, the body will take care of the issue on its own. That said, contracting the virus once does not immunize you against a second infection from another strain, nor against reinfection from the same strain. The vaccines offered on the market offer important protection, nonetheless. Treatments for genital warts and cancers should be discussed with your doctor. There are currently three approved vaccines for HPV in Canada: Gardasil®, Gardasil®9 and Cervarix®5.
As with any vaccination, talk to your doctor or health care provider to see if you may be a good candidate for the immunization. If you’re a parent or guardian, you may even want to request information from your child’s school to see if the vaccine will be made available to students.
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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Note: the hyperlinks that direct to other sites are not continuously updated. It is possible that some links become untraceable over time. Thank you.
- Government of Canada. Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on September 2, 2020.
- Government of Canada. Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
- The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. Prevention.
- Planned Parenthood. How is HPV treated?
- Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).