HPV – Is It An STD? 

The human papillomavirus or more commonly known as HPV is a virus that is spread by skin to skin contact.  There are over 200 types of HPV, some HPV strains are the cause of the common plantar wart and common flat warts.  Other strains of the HPV virus are associated with genital warts and precancerous/cancer on areas of the cervix, vagina, vulvar, anus, oral pharynx (back of throat), and penis.  Common HPV types which are associated with these anogenital conditions are HPV type 6, 11, 16, and 18.  Anogenital HPV is now considered the most common sexually transmitted infection (STD).  Approximately 80% of sexually active women and men have been exposed to HPV in their lifetime.  One can be exposed to the HPV virus anytime in their lifetime but the most common time for initial exposure is during the first decade of becoming first sexually active.  Often times HPV infections are transient and can come and go, it is when the virus remains for prolonged periods of time and the body does not clear the virus is when  one is put a risk for HPV related cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulvar, anus, oral pharynx, and penis. 

Anogenital HPV infection is primarily transmitted by genital to genital skin contact.  It can also be transmitted thru anal genital contact and oral genital contact.  Ways one can help reduce their risk of contracting HPV is limiting the number of sexual partners, and being in a monogamous relationship.  Condoms can lower your risk of getting HPV, but the condom does not cover all the areas of the genitals where the virus can be present, so they are not completely effective.   The HPV vaccine can help protect both male and females from the 9 most common strains of anogenital HPV, which will help prevent HPV related cancers.  This vaccine is recommended beginning at ages 11-12, but can be given up to age 45. 

So in conclusion to the question, Is HPV and STD?  The answer is the anogenital HPV strains are an STD and they are the most common STD there is. 


Contributed by: Suzanne J. Terry, APRN


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