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HPV: The importance of being informed and getting checked

10/18/2010 – 11:08
By:

Chardonee Wright

Staff Writer

No signs. No symptoms. Ladies, we all know how uncomfortable a trip to the gynecologist can be. You have to undress, put on a paper gown, and, well, you know the rest. Did you ever realize how important these appointments are? They are very critical for the early detection of diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the most common sexually transmitted infections: HPV. Not only do regular checkups provide early detection, they can keep you and your partner safe.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) infects about 12,000 people every day and is most common in women. Forty types of HPV can infect the genital areas of males and females. The downside is that males can’t get screened for the STI, so there is no way of knowing that you are exposing the virus to your significant other.

This is why it is very important for women to have regular pap smears. If you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable while getting a pap smear, talk to your doctor and let them know how you feel. Pap smears are recommended after three years of starting sexual activity. Women over 30 should be tested every 2 to 3 years unless otherwise directed by a physician.

Early detection is one of the most essential steps for prevention. Did you know if left untreated, HPV can lead to genital warts or cervical cancer? Most people don’t. Now, the upside about HPV is that in 90 percent of cases, your body’s immune system can clear HPV within two years.

How can one contract HPV? Believe it or not, you do not have to have sexual intercourse to get it. It is very easily transmitted and can be passed through any genital contact with another person who has the virus.

Other ways of getting it are through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV has affected approximately 20 million Americans. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. Wow, what a huge number!

This is why regular screenings for cervical cancer and protection are a must once you become sexually active. It can lead to a healthier lifestyle if you are aware of the preventions and actions needed to keep yourself safe.

To lower your chances of getting HPV, you can get vaccinated. Cervarix and Gardasil are two vaccines designed to protect females against the two most common types of HPV. Girls as young as 11 and 12 are recommended to get both vaccinations and females 13-26 who have never had the vaccine. Gardasil is also available for boys and men to protect against genital warts even though men can’t be screened.

We all want protection from anything that can harm our bodies. We all want to be healthy. DO NOT FORGET ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL HEALTH! It is just as important. Early detection and having knowledge of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV can greatly reduce your chances of being exposed. You can tell a friend who can tell a friend.

The American Social Health Association (ASHA) formed the National HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center because of the lack of information that is available publicly regarding these issues. There are many sources and referrals online such as www.ashasd.org to help you better understand. Your awareness of your sexual health is imperative. Get informed. Get checked.

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