Health

HPV is more common than you think. Here’s how it affects your health and sex life – National

HPV is more common than you think.  Here’s how it affects your health and sex life – National

HPV is more common than you think. Here’s how it affects your health and sex life – National

It has an amazing scene girls where Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, famously tweets “all adventurous women do” when she finds out she has human papillomavirus (HPV). She boldly writes this as Robin’s song Dance alone the game. Then she starts dancing and doesn’t feel so sad about her diagnosis.

HPV is incredibly common in Canada: in fact, the Government of Canada is assessing it 75 percent of sexually active Canadians will have an HPV infection during their lifetime. Yet despite this fact – and despite Ali Wong in jest saying that “everyone has HPV” – there is still stigma and confusion surrounding this very common virus.

With all of this in mind, we wanted to break down the stigma and break down what HPV really is and what it means for you, your sex life and your health. Even if you have not been diagnosed with HPV, self-education can help you support your friends or loved ones who may be affected.

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(Disclaimer: This advice is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek medical advice specific to your situation.)

What is HPV?

HPV stands for “human papilloma virus”. As The Canadian Cancer Society explainsHPV is actually “a group of more than 100 different types of viruses,” of which more than 40 are transmitted through sexual contact. Some types of HPV can infect the genitals and cause cervical cancer, genital warts, and warts on other parts of your body.

How do I get HPV?

HPV is most often transmitted through sexual contact, but it can also transmitted by other skin-to-skin contact — although the Canadian Cancer Society points out that it “is not spread by casual contact, such as hugging, shaking hands, sneezing or coughing.”

What are the symptoms of HPV in women and men?

Many strains of HPV they don’t affect you or show any symptoms. In many cases like this, the virus is essentially only in your body, but symptoms do not manifest.

However, HPV is linked to almost everything cervical cancer. Education about HPV mainly focuses on the prevention of cervical cancer. As a result, many people think that only women can get HPV, but HPV is not gender specific.

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Some HPV strains can also cause penile cancer (very rare) and anal cancer. HPV is also a leading cause squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neckalso known as mouth and throat cancer.

HPV can also cause warts. If sexually transmitted, these warts appear in the genital region. But you can also get warts on your feet or other parts of your body from HPV. So wearing flip flops in the locker room can help prevent the virus from being passed on to you.

As explains the American Academy of Dermatology, “HPV thrives in warm, humid areas. When your skin is moist and soft, it’s easier to get infected with HPV. Shoes and flip-flops help protect your feet from viruses, which can prevent plantar warts.”

How can you tell if you have HPV?

As noted earlier, HPV infections often do not cause symptoms, and HPV is not part of routine sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Only abnormal Pap smears or physical symptoms will generally trigger an HPV test.

If you get an abnormal Pap test result, there will be further tests for HPV and to determine if you have precancerous or cancerous cells in your cervix. You can learn more about HPV testing through the Canadian Cancer Society here.

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What happens if I have HPV?

First thing: don’t panic! This tip comes courtesy of Camille Zeitouni, co-founder Sex[M]edan organization “combating sexual health inequalities by providing comprehensive sexual health education to healthcare professionals”.

Zeitouni and sex[M]the team spends a lot of time fighting the stigma surrounding STIs. Although HPV can be transmitted in non-sexual ways, the most common way to get it is through sex, so it is treated with the same stigma as other STIs.

“I think if people really knew the facts about HPV, there wouldn’t be such a stigma around it,” says Zeitouni. “Something so common shouldn’t be stigmatized. Yes, it is sexually related, however, many people have sex.”

Then your doctor will do further tests. If your HPV strain is linked to cervical cancer, you may need to undergo a colposcopy (cervical examination) to remove precancerous cells or a biopsy for further treatment.

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Should I disclose HPV to sexual partners?

This is a difficult question to answer. Canadian law does not require you to disclose that you have HPV in future, current or past partners, stating that “HPV infection is not a requirement to apply in Canada”.

Lack of education about HPV can make it difficult to talk to a sexual partner if they don’t know what an HPV diagnosis entails.

“I think it’s good to talk about it, if you have the comfort and trust with someone to talk about these things and want to educate them,” says Zeitouni.

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How can I protect myself from HPV? Or from giving to other people?

Condoms and dental dams can help reduce HPV transmissionbut they do not fully protect against it because it spreads through skin-to-skin contact.

Zeitouni encourages everyone to consider the HPV vaccination. You may have already received the HPV vaccine in high school, so check your vaccine records. But if not, there is compensation schedule for ages 12 to 26. If you are 27 or older and have not received the HPV vaccine, talk to your doctor about getting it.

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Provincial health care does not always cover the HPV vaccine for those who did not receive it at school. The price varies for different brands of vaccines. In Toronto, each dose of the HPV vaccine costs money $215. You usually need it three dosesso full protection could cost up to $645.

It may not be financially feasible for you, and if it is, don’t beat yourself up about it. Take precautions for safe sex and keep up with your Pap smears and STI screenings. If you take one thing away from this article, know that HPV is common and you are not alone.

“We wouldn’t judge someone for getting cancer caused by smoking,” says Zeitouni. “So why should we judge someone for getting cancer caused by HPV?”

Mail How does HPV affect your sex life and health? appeared first on Slice.

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