What is human papillomavirus?
There are over 100 types of HPV, and infections are very common. Most infections pass without symptoms. Others cause papillomas (warts, usually on the genitals).
Some types of HPV are high risk as they are linked to the development of cancers of the mouth, throat, cervix, penis, vulva, vagina and anus, and you can be vaccinated against them.
How is HPV transmitted?
HPV is transmitted through contact between people, most commonly through sexual contact. Because symptoms can occur long after infection, it is difficult to identify when the infection occurs.
What is the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine protects against four types of HPV, which account for more than 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of cases of gential warts in the UK.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Although most HPV infections do not cause symptoms and go away on their own, some produce small warts, usually in the genital area, or verrucas.
In some case where the body is not able to clear the infection, it can cause abnormal cell changes which can lead to cancer.
Is HPV curable?
In most cases, HPV infections don’t cause serious harm and the body will get rid it naturally within 2 years, without treatment.
Genital warts can be treated with creams or chemicals, or by freezing, heating or removing them.
If abnormal cells in the cervix develop, they can be treated when detected early enough, which makes attending cervical screenings especially important.
How can you prevent HPV?
Using condoms during sex can reduce the risk of contracting a gential HPV infection.
You can also be vaccinated against some types of HPV.
The NHS currently vaccinates against 4 types of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18. Types 16 and 18 cause over 70% of cases of cervical cancers in the UK. Types 6 and 11 cause around 90% of genital warts.
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
Girls aged 12 to 13 are offered a vaccination against HPV to help protect them against types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
Men who have sex with men (MSM) are recommended to have the vaccine as they are at risk of developing HPV-related cancers.
Trans women (people who were assigned male at birth) are also eligible for the NHS vaccine if their risk of getting HPV is similar to the risk of MSM who are eligible for the HPV vaccine.
Trans men (people who were assigned female at birth) are eligible if they are under 45 years old and have sex with other men. If they have already had the HPV vaccine as part of the girls’ HPV vaccination programme, no further doses are required.
The HPV vaccine will be extended to boys aged 12 to 13 years in England from school year 2019/20.
Who should not get the HPV vaccine?
If you’ve previously had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the HPV vaccine, or any ingredient in the HPV vaccine, or are pregnant, you should not get the vaccine.
If you are moderately or severely ill you should postpone your vaccination until you recover.
What is a HPV certificate?
A HPV certificate proves you have been vaccinated against HPV infection.
What is the recommended age for the HPV vaccine?
The NHS recommends vaccination begins age 12 and up.
What is the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine?
The vaccine has been shown to be over 99% effective at preventing pre-cancer caused by types 16 or 18 in young women. It also gives some protection against HPV strains that are not present in the vaccine itself.
What are the side effects of the HPV vaccine?
Common side effects include swelling, redness, itching and pain at the injection site, headache, fever and nausea. Hives are rare but possible. Very rarely you may experience difficulty breathing.
How many jabs are needed?
The HPV vaccine is usually given as 2 doses injected into the upper arm, spaced at least 6 months apart. Girls who receive their first dose aged 15 or older need to have 3 injections.
Men who have sex with men (MSM), trans men and trans women need 3 vaccination doses, or 2 if they’re under 15.
When receiving 3 doses of the vaccine, the second is given at least 1 month after the first, and the third within 12 months of the second dose.
How long does it last for?
Studies have already shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer.
However as the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types that can cause cervical cancer, regular screenings are still vital for women over 25.
When and where was the last outbreak of HPV?
HPV was the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK until vaccination began in 2009.
Cervical cancer kills around 900 women in the UK each year, and is the most comon form of cancer affecting young women. It is also an issue worldwide, with around one death from cervical cancer every two minutes, and 87% of those ocurring in less developed countries.