No one likes to interrupt dating and sex talk with sobering facts about disease, but being aware of risks and consequences can help us better control our encounters and health.
So, let’s talk about HPV. The Center for Disease Control says that almost 80 million Americans have HPV, the world’s most common sexually transmitted infection. That’s about one in four people, or almost all folks of sexually active age groups.
Can that be right? Other estimates are just as grim: some say that nearly all people who have had sex have this STI.
HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, is very common and highly contagious, and the fact that condoms only help reduce its spread marginally make it challenging to control. It’s one of those equal opportunity infections—it doesn’t care whether you have a different partner every night, or you’ve only had sex one time in your whole life. It’s impossible to pinpoint when and where you got it, because it can be silent for years before flaring up.
Because there’s a lot of confusion about HPV, it’s a kgood idea for anyone who uses dating websites, or is sexually active, to get to know the facts.
HPV can mean genital warts or cancer.
Cervical cancer and throat cancer are two kinds of cancer that can result from HPV infection. Genital warts are dreaded too. Warts can look like a pimple or two or grow like mushrooms and look like cauliflower or barnacles. It’s humiliating to have warts, but they are not the strain that causes cancer.
Don’t panic. You probably already have it.
I know, that’s not much consolation, but it’s a fact. The virus is often symptom free. Most people who have it don’t know. The kind of viral strains that cause cancer are not visible ones you can see on a partner.
Genital warts are contagious, and they’re most contagious when visible. You might not contract them even if you contact them, and you might break out in warts even if you never saw any on your partners.
All this means is that you want to take reasonable cautions, but not worry yourself sick about it. It is serious and may sounds scary, but it’s also a fact that most viruses act like this. We carry countless viruses around without infection or symptoms.
Getting it doesn’t mean your partner was unfaithful.
If you’re in a monogamous relationship and suddenly find yourself with a case of HPV, it doesn’t mean your partner is lying or cheating. HPV can be dormant for years.
Safe sex and a practical whole health plan are your best defences.
Condoms are extremely effective in combating unwanted pregnancy and diseases. Because HPV can spread through skin contact, snuggling, oral sex, touching, towels and blankets, condoms are a less effective strategy against HPV. Don’t ditch the condoms, though, they provide some protection. You can also bring your own towel, use a condom or dental dam for oral sex, and shower before and after your encounter.
The most important factor to include in HPV prevention or management is the general maintenance of your health and hygiene. Bolstering your immune system is key. Get plenty of sleep and fresh air and sunshine. Take Vitamin D even if you get outside a lot because there’s very little in food. Eat lots of fish, eggs, leafy vegetables, and get regular exercise.
The good news? Having regular sex is part of having a healthy body. Our bodies are meant to be used and function optimally when we do so.