Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
WHAT IS IT?
HPV is a very common family of virus that cause warts on different places on the body, including warts on the hands, face, neck, genitals, and butt. Genital and anal warts are caused by specific strains of HPV different than those which cause warts on the hands or face. We will only talk here about genital and anal HPV infections.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Very often, HPV has no symptoms at all. Sometimes, genital warts can appear on, or just inside the vagina or butt, and less commonly, on the penis. Someone with HPV infection may not have visible warts but can still be infectious to others. Genital warts are generally painless and appear as bumps or growths on the penis, vagina or butt that can be whitish, or lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. Genital warts can be hard to see, but can sometimes be felt as a bump.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
There is no cure for genital or anal HPV. Besides being a nuisance, HPV infection in your cervix or anus can increase your risk for cervical or anal cancer.
HOW DO I GET IT?
HPV that infects the genital areas is spread through sex or even close skin to skin contact with an infected partner. Unfortunately, someone can be infectious even without visible warts or bumps. Using a condom may only offer limited protection since the virus
can get onto the skin not covered by the condom. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid sex or sex play with someone with visible warts and NEVER share sex toys with anyone else since genital warts and even HIV can be spread this way too. This includes fingers - if someone’s fingers have been in their or anyone else’s anus or could have precum or semen on them, don’t let them put them in your anus, Soap and water does not kill the virus, but it is still a good idea to shower well immediately after sex which might wash the virus off the skin.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
HPV infections often go away on their own within a couple of years. A doctor can visually diagnose genital warts sometimes. A pap smear or anal pap smear can screen for HPV-related blood changes. If you have genital or anal warts, they should only be removed by a doctor. Although HPV is still present in the body, the good news is that once the warts are removed, they may not come back for months or years, if at all.