Do you currently have an HPV infection? You may not have any initial symptoms, but you still run the risk of transmitting the infection to someone else who could be more susceptible to the virus. That is why you should learn to practice safe sex to avoid transmitting HPV to your partner during sex.
Over 50% of sexually active men and women will suffer an HPV infection at least once in their lives. Fortunately, most of them never notice the infection because they do not experience any symptoms. Their immune systems usually eliminate the virus before it causes any health problems for them.
On the other hand, a small percentage of HPV-infected people will develop a cluster of genital warts and sometimes even abnormal cell growth. Women are most susceptible to cervical cancer if they become infected with certain high-risk HPV strains, such as HPV-16 and HPV-18.
Women are advised to undergo annual pap smears and HPV testing to check for signs of abnormal or cancerous cervical cell growth. But remember that men can still get cancer from high-risk HPV infectionstoo. In fact, some HPV strains can lead to vaginal cancer, penile cancer, vulval cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, or anal cancer.
Sadly, there are no screening tests to check for signs of HPV infections in the vagina, mouth, throat, vulva, anus, or penis. For this reason, it would be wise to practice safe sex and receive the HPV vaccine to help prevent an HPV infection entirely.
Tips to Protect Spreading HPV
You may not know whether you or your partner have an HPV infection. Either way, you should assume one of you has an HPV infection, so take the necessary precautions to prevent viral transmission from intimate skin-to-skin contact while having sex.
Below are the top five ways to protect yourself and others from HPV transmission:
1) Get the HPV Vaccine
Health officials recommend the HPV vaccine for boys and girls as young as 11 and 12 because it is the age range before they enter their sexually active teenage and early adult years. Once they start having sex, they will have a higher risk of contracting HPV strains. So, it is wise for young people to get the HPV vaccine before exposing themselves to high-risk HPV strains because it will protect them.
Unfortunately, many young people never get the HPV vaccine. That is okay because adults between 26 and 45 are still eligible for the HPV vaccine. But there is less chance of it being effective if a person has already exposed themselves to one or more HPV strains during past sexual activity.
Gardasil 9 is the most common HPV vaccine. It protects against high-risk HPV strains known for causing genital warts or cancer, including Types 6, 11, 16, and 18. Health insurance may or may not cover Gardasil 9for older patients, so you must check with your insurer to see if you are covered for the vaccine.
Despite all the criticism regarding vaccines, overwhelming research has proven HPV vaccines to be safe and effective for preventing high-risk HPV infections. Therefore, it is much safer to get the HPV vaccine than it would be not to get it.
2) Practice Safe Sex with Condoms
Intimate skin-to-skin contact is how HPV spreads from one person to another. The best way to reduce your infection risk is to use condoms during sex and practice safe sex.
Condoms will not eliminate the infection risk entirely, but they will protect the areas of the skin covered by them. So, if you engage in anal, vaginal, or oral sex, ensure you or your partner wears dental dams or condoms to limit the risk of skin-to-skin exposure.
3) Receive Annual Medical and Dental Examinations
Women should start receiving pap smears (cervical cancer screenings) every three years, beginning at age 21. Pap smears can effectively detect any early signs of cervical cancer.
Women aged 30 to 65 should continue getting screened for cervical cancer every three years or undergo an HPV test and pap smear every five years. Since most cervical cancer cases are due to HPV infections, testing for HPV and cervical cancer helps doctors diagnose women more accurately.
4) Recognize HPV Symptoms
Most people never experience HPV symptoms. But when they do occur, you need to learn to recognize them immediately. You should also learn to recognize these symptoms in your partner too.
The common visible HPV symptoms are genital warts. You may see one small flat bump on the genitals or a cluster of bumps. Once you notice any bumps on your genitals, see your doctor for treatment to prevent the bumps from growing any bigger. Make sure your partner does the same if they have genital warts.
Avoid having sex until you and your partner no longer have genital warts.
5) Wash Your Genitals After Sex
Rinse your genitals with warm water and mild soap after having sex. It will wash away all the germs and bacteria which may have gotten onto your urethra and other parts of your genitals. Then you will have a reduced risk of infection of HPV or any kind of STD.