Today (4 March) marks International HPV awareness Day – a worldwide campaign designed to raise awareness of human papillomavirus (HPV).
HPV is very common. According to figures published by the UK Health Security Agency, around 70-80% of unvaccinated people will have HPV at some point in their lives, making it the most widespread sexually transmitted infection (STI).
In this blog, we take a closer look at HPV, what it is, and how you can reduce your risk of HPV.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus or HPV actually refers to a group of over 100 viruses that are spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Most of the time these viruses are harmless, and most people with HPV will not experience any symptoms or complications because of them. However, some types of HPV have been known to cause genital warts around the penis, vagina or anus.
A few types of HPV – the ones that are spread by sexual contact – can also increase the risk of cancer in the mouth and throat, genitals, and anus.
This means it is extremely important to understand the risks associated with HPV, and how you can protect yourself (and others) from HPV.
How can I protect myself from HPV?
Although HPV is very common, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of getting HPV, including:
Getting vaccinated as early as possible is the best way to guard against HPV.
In the UK, the vaccine is offered in schools to all children around the age of 13. However, if you have not had the vaccine, it is still worth getting even if you are older and already sexually active.
Over 80 million people have already received the vaccine worldwide and in time, it is expected that the vaccine will save hundreds of lives every year in the UK.
In the 10 years since the start of the UK vaccination programme, there has been a significant decline in HPV infections, the number of young people with genital warts, and pre-cancerous cervical disease in young women.
Attending cervical screenings
Cervical screening – sometimes referred to as a smear test – is a routine test offered by the NHS to women aged between 25 and 64, to check the health of the cervix.
During a cervical screening appointment, a doctor or nurse will collect a small sample of cells from the cervix to check for certain ‘high-risk’ types of HPV that are known to cause changes to the cells of the cervix and, in turn, certain types of cancer.
It is recommended that women attend these appointments when invited, as cervical screening is one of the best ways to guard against cervical cancer.
The procedure is simple, usually pain free, and only requires a short appointment.
Using barrier methods of contraception (condoms)
Because HPV is easily passed on via skin-to-skin contact, barrier methods of contraception such as external condoms (worn on the penis), internal condoms (worn inside the vagina) and dental dams (used during oral sex) can help prevent skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity and the spread of bodily fluids.
This helps reduce the risk of HPV infection.
You can find further information about HPV by visiting https://www.askabouthpv.org/, which is operated by The International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS): the leading global authority on human papillomaviruses (HPV).
How often should I get tested for other STIs?
In addition to getting vaccinated for HPV, attending routine cervical screenings (women), and using barrier methods of contraception, getting tested regularly for other common STIs it the best way to reduce your risk of contracting STIs/STDs and spreading these infections to others.
Our state-of-the-art laboratory tests for many of the most common STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mycoplasma genitalium (Mgen), trichomoniasis, syphilis, herpes, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and the urinary tract infections (UTIs), ureaplasma parvum and ureaplasma urealyticum.
Simply order your test online and we will ship your kit out to you immediately. The kit will contain everything you need to collect your samples and return them to our UK laboratory.
Depending on which test you order, you will be asked to provide a urine sample, vaginal swab sample, lesion swab sample, or a finger prick blood sample.
All tests are performed in-house at our laboratory, so you can be reassured your samples will not be sent abroad. Furthermore, our STI testing has been developed in accordance with stringent BASHH, FSHR and MHRA guidelines, so you can be confident of receiving accurate, reliable results.
For confidential advice on which test is right for you, you can also contact our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email email@example.com.
Please note you must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test kit from AlphaBiolabs.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you severe pain and discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
Home STI tests
Order your at-home STI test kit, from just £29.