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Safe Sex Information:  Human Papillomavirus

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With the alarming statistics today on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) worldwide, it is vital to be fully aware of these infectious diseases and take the necessary steps to engage only in safe sex. Teenagers are also urged to take precautions as they start to get involved in relationships. Education is of utmost importance when it concerns this reality on the continuous spread of STDs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) statistics shows that more than 300 million STD cases occur around the world each year. In the U.S., 13.5 million new cases are reported annually with millions of teens affected as well. Experts also point out that being infected with an STD increases a person’s chances of being exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

HPV transmission

Various sexually transmitted diseases have been identified and one of the most common is the human papillomavirus or HPV. This virus comes in more than 100 different types, some known as high risk while some are low risk. Over 30 of them are spread through sexual contact while some develop through skin contact.

Some of the HPVs that are sexually transmitted are types 6 and 11. These infect the genital parts of both men and women such as the skin of the penis, vulva or the outer part of the vagina or anus and the linings of the vagina, cervix or rectum. This being very common, it is foreseen that over 50 percent of women will become infected with some HPV types during their adulthood.

Genital HPV is considered the most common STD in the U.S. The American Social Health Association in 2006 predicted that approximately 75 percent of Americans in the reproductive age will have experienced genital HPV infection in their lifetime. The Centers for Disease Control, for its part, said over 80 percent of American women upon reaching the age of 50 will have been infected by one strain of genital HPV.

Known symptoms

Genital HPV infection is usually asymptomatic meaning, it shows no symptoms and people infected may not know they have the disease. However, a common symptom is the appearance of genital warts.

These are soft, moist, pinkish or flesh in color and develop in the genital area. They may appear flat, raised, small or big, single or many normally in the vulva, in the vagina or anus, on the cervix, penis, scrotum, groin or thigh. These warts caused by the types 6 and 11 HPV may be seen weeks or months after having sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Diagnosis and treatment

Only through visual inspection can genital warts be confirmed by a doctor. They can be removed using prescribed medications that are applied on the wart.

In some types of HPV, only a pap smear can detect if a woman has been infected. It is for this reason that regular pap tests are required for women to find out any signs of a possible cervical cancer which is strongly linked to HPV infection. If left untreated, though, some HPV infection can lead to cancer of the cervix, penis and rectum.

It is, therefore, highly important to be protected when engaging in sex to prevent getting the HPV and one of the best ways to achieve this is to use condoms. Condom use has been found to reduce the rate of cervical cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as a study done by Marcus Steiner and Willard Cates.

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