• A very common infection
• A few types can lead to cervical and other cancers
• Treatment available for cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV
• Spread easily by skin-to-skin contact
• There are ways to reduce your risk of getting HPV
HPV stands for human papillomavirus. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some types produce warts — plantar warts on the feet and common hand warts. About 40 types of HPV can infect the genital area — the vulva
, vagina, cervix
, penis, or scrotum
Genital HPV infections are very common. HPV is so common that about half of all men and more than 3 out of 4 women have HPV at some point in their lives. But most people who have HPV don't know it.
• Most HPV infections have no harmful effect at all.
• Some types of HPV may cause genital warts
. These are called low-risk types of HPV.
• Some types of HPV may cause cell changes that sometimes lead to cervical cancer and certain other genital and throat cancers. These are called high-risk types. This page discusses these high-risk types.
Although most HPV infections go away within 8 to 13 months, some will not. HPV infections that do not go away can "hide" in the body for years and not be detected. That's why it is impossible to know exactly when someone got infected, how long they've been infected, or who passed the infection to them.
If you have HPV, you should not be ashamed or afraid. Most people who have had sex have HPV at some point in their lives. And most infections go away on their own.