Three in ten adults have never heard of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and over 40% have a poor understanding of it, as found by our recent independent survey with Yougov (August 2021).
Awareness of who HPV affects and what diseases it can cause was also shockingly low, with about a quarter of people (23%) saying that they don’t know who HPV affects and only one in five (19%) aware that it can cause anal and throat cancers.
Human Papilloma Virus is an extremely common virus that affects 80% of people at some point in their lives, it’s almost as common as a cold, and is transmitted through skin-to-skin sexual contact – including anal and oral sex, mutual masturbation, and the sharing of sex toys. The virus itself is symptomless, and usually the immune system clears it by itself, so many people are never aware they ever had it and it’s almost impossible to tell who you got it from.
Sometimes, HPV doesn’t get cleared from the body and can lead to genital warts or more rarely head and neck, cervical, vaginal, vulval, anal or penile cancer.
All children aged 12-13 are currently offered a vaccine to protect against four key strains of HPV, including two ‘high-risk’ cancer causing strains, HPV 16 and 18.
People with a cervix are also eligible for cervical screening on the NHS aged 25 – 60. When they receive their results, they will be told whether or not they have HPV in a letter and a HPV positive result raises a lot of anxiety and questions, which we hope to clear up.
There are many common myths surrounding HPV – for example that a condom offers full protection against it or that is only causes cervical cancer.
There is also stigma and shame that surrounds the virus being a sexually transmitted infection which can prevent people taking measures to protect their health. We want everyone to know that HPV is a very common virus, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of if you have it.
For World Sexual Health Day today, we have launched a guide for everyone aged 16+ to raise awareness of HPV, explain ways to prevent it, and bust some of the many myths and stigmas surrounding this commonly occurring virus.