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What is HPV?

HPV stands for Human papillomavirus and is a sexually transmitted infection (STI.) HPV is common in Canada, estimates are that 75% of sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

There are many types of HPV. Some types have no symptoms and your immune system will clear the virus on its own. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, while other types of HPV can cause cancer.

There are a few ways health care professionals screen for HPV. During an STI appointment the health care provider can often confirm genital warts by visual inspection. Pap tests for people with a cervix can detect cell changes. Regular pap tests are the best way to find abnormal cervical cells early and treat them before they develop into cervical cancer. Providers can also screen for signs of HPV related cancer in the mouth, anus or penis.

HPV Vaccination is safe and is the most effective way to protect yourself against HPV. See your health care provider to discuss if vaccination is a good choice for you. Condoms and other barrier methods during sex can reduce HPV transmission, though they don’t provide full protection as HPV can be passed through other skin-to-skin contact. Condoms do protect against other STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV.