Human Papillomavirus(HPV) is a virus with many strains that causes genital warts in men and women, as well as cervical cancer, other cancers in the ano-genital area, and some cancers in the throat. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world. Millions of people have HPV and most of the newly infected are young people between 15 and 24 years old. The virus is passed from person to person through skin contact- sexual intercourse isn’t required to become infected. While condoms reduce risk, they do not eliminate transmission.
While most infections with HPV will resolve on their own, a small percentage will go on to cause cervical cancer. Two HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) have been developed to prevent this from happening as well as preventing many cases of genital warts. Both vaccines have an excellent safety profile and are highly effective.
Recently, Gardasil was approved for use in males as well. Routine vaccination of boys and girls is now recommended. We will begin discussing vaccination with our patients and their families during early adolescence. Since the vaccine is not effective after teens have been exposed to HPV, it is important to vaccinate young people before any sexual activity is initiated.
HPV vaccines are part of the adolescent immunization schedule. Therefore, almost all insurance plans cover the vaccine for women. Many already cover men as well, however we do advise parents seeking to vaccinate their sons to check with their insurance carrier. We anticipate that all carriers will be covering HPV vaccine for men and women soon.