HPV Myths & Facts

Although there’s a growing awareness of the human papillomavirus in recent years, many HPV myths and misconceptions persist. To learn the truth, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common questions about this sexually transmitted infection.

Is the HPV Vaccine Safe? – YES

The HPV vaccine is incredibly safe and effective. It’s been widely used for over a decade, and scientific monitoring has found little to no side effects. Unfortunately, HPV vaccine myths are still quite common despite repeated studies that prove the vaccination has dramatically decreased the number of infections and HPV precancers in young people.

Can Guys Get HPV? – YES

It’s a myth that HPV is an infection that only girls and women can get. Much of that confusion is perpetuated by the fact that there is no HPV test for males. While guys may not be able to find out if they have HPV, they can still become infected and spread it to their sexual partners. If men get a high-risk HPV infection, they could develop genital warts or cancer of the penis, anus, or throat.

Can You Get HPV From Oral Sex? – YES

Other common questions like this include “Can you get HPV from kissing?” or “Can you get HPV from saliva?” Studies have found that oral HPV may be passed during oral sex or, in extremely rare cases, deep, open-mouthed kissing. HPV is not passed through bodily fluids like saliva, so it won’t spread through actions like sharing drinks, food, or utensils.

High-risk oral HPV types may cause warts in the mouth and throat or cancer of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer). Therefore, it’s important to watch for unusual symptoms that may indicate that you’ve contracted oral HPV.

Can You Get HPV Without Being Sexually Active? – YES

HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, so you can’t get HPV from a toilet seat or if someone with HPV coughs on you. Most cases of HPV are transmitted during vaginal intercourse, but you could potentially get it from other forms of intimate contact, like anal sex, oral sex, or intimate skin-to-skin contact involving these areas of the body.

If you are sexually active, using condoms and dental dams can lower your risk of getting HPV. Remember that HPV can be passed even if a person who is infected is not showing any symptoms.

Do I Still Need Pap Tests If I Got the HPV Vaccine? – YES

The HPV vaccine is up to 99% effective at reducing your risk for certain types of cancers caused by HPV. However, it does not protect against any HPV types to which you’ve already been exposed. You still need regular Pap tests even if you have been vaccinated for HPV.

Make sure you know the facts when it comes to HPV. Search our Info Hub to learn more about HPV protection and treatment.

Sources
  1. Answering Parents’ Questions about HPV Vaccine: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. 
  2. HPV and Men – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
  3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Oropharyngeal Cancer: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. 
  4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2017.