What is HPV?

HPV is a common virus that affects men and women. There are at least 100 different strains of the virus, and about 30 of these are sexually transmitted and can infect the genital area.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United Sates. As many as 20 million Americans are already infected with HPV, and there are more than 6 million new infections diagnosed each year.

HPV can cause changes to the cells of the cervix, penis, and anus. Some types of HPV cause genital warts and other cellular changes that are benign (abnormal but noncancerous). Certain strains of HPV have been shown to cause cervical, penile and anal cancer. The vast majority of people with HPV infection have no symptoms at all.


Genital Warts

Genital warts, or condyloma, are one kind of lesion caused by HPV. The lesion or growth can appear on the shaft or head of the penis or on the vagina, vulva, or cervix. Genital warts can also appear around the anus and urethra in both men and women and are sometimes even found in the mouth and throat. In many cases, warts are not visible to the naked eye. In other cases they can appear as soft, moist, pink or red swelling. They can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large. Some cluster together forming a cauliflower like shape. Although genital warts are usually painless, they may become sore, itch, or burn if hit, rubbed, irritated, or ignored for a long period of time. The strains of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same as the strains that have been linked to cervical cancer.


Vaccination – Gardasil

The FDA has approved a vaccine (Gardasil) that protects against four strains of HPV for use in women and men, ages 9-26. These four strains cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

The vaccine is given as a series of three injections. The first dose can be given at any time. The second dose follows two months after the first dose, and the third dose is given six months after the first dose. The HPV vaccine is available at Student Health Services. Students who are interested in receiving the vaccine should call 527-4445 to schedule an appointment to receive their first vaccination and information on current vaccine pricing. Financial assistance from the HPV vaccine manufacturing company may be available for qualified individuals. Student Health Services staff can assess for eligibility and facilitate the application process. Students who believe they may be at risk for HPV infection, but are over the age of 26 should discuss the issue with their health care provider to determine if vaccination a good choice for them. Students who have questions about the vaccine and would like to know more before deciding whether to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine can speak one-on-one with a college nurse practitioner by calling 527-4445 and requesting an HPV consult. You can also review the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC's) Vaccine Information Sheet on the HPV Vaccine for more valuable information on HPV and the HPV vaccine.

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For additional information, please contact Cindy Dickinson at cdickinson@santarosa.edu.