How is HPV transmitted?
Genital HPV infection is spread through sexual contact - primarily vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse. It is possible, though less likely, for the virus to be transmitted by sexual contact without intercourse. Rarely, a pregnant
woman will pass HPV to her baby during vaginal delivery, resulting in laryngeal papillomatosis (warts on the voice box).
What are the symptoms of HPV infection?
Certain types of HPV cause genital warts and other lesions, but the virus usually causes no symptoms. Most people with a genital HPV infection do not know they are infected. That is why regular examinations and cervical smear tests
are so important.
How is HPV infection treated?
Genital warts can be removed in a number of ways:
- with chemicals,
- by freezing,
- by electrically being burned off, or
- via surgery or lasers.
For most people, this treatment will clear the warts. If your warts return repeatedly, the doctor may try injecting them with the drug interferon. Although treatment clears the symptoms, the virus remains in your body.
Abnormal smear tests can be treated in a variety of ways, from monitoring over a period of months to see if they return to normal, to cryosurgery that freezes and destroys infected cells, or to procedures that remove problem tissue.
What will happen if I don't get treated?
Untreated genital warts can disappear, stay the same, or grow in size and number and cluster in large masses. Some types of the virus can lead to cervical or penile cancer.
How can HPV be prevented?
Recently a vaccine offering protection against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 has become available in Australia with approval for use in females aged 9 to 26 years and males aged 9 to 15 years. The vaccine, GARDASIL®, is being offered, as part of an ongoing school-based program for girls in the first year of secondary school (the National HPV Vaccination Program).
Males are not eligible for the free vaccine.
For information on general prevention, see Safe Sex and Stay safe.
How common is HPV infection?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus, with four out of five people having it at some stage of their lives. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases
in the world.