The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is typically spread through sexual contact. While a HPV infection usually clears on its own (and usually without any symptoms as well), it is still a cause for concern as it can put you at a higher risk for certain types of cancers.
Here are four things you should know about HPV and how you can protect yourself against a HPV infection.
There are more than 100 different strains of HPV.
Out of the various HPV strains, there are certain ones that are higher-risk than others, due to the health conditions they may cause.
For example, approximately 70% of all cervical cancer can be attributed to two specific HPV strains (HPV 16 and 18). Other higher-risk strains of HPV have also been associated with vaginal or vulvar cancer in women, and anal or penile cancer in men.
The HPV virus can be transmitted, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
The most common mode of transmission is through sexual activity (including oral or anal intercourse) or close skin-to-skin touching with an infected individual. A person with HPV can pass the infection to their partner even when they have no signs or symptoms. In fact, most people may not even know they have been infected as it’s less common for symptoms to show.
When symptoms of an HPV infection do emerge, they typically appear as genital warts. These would look like small bumps around the genital area.
The best way to protect yourself is by getting the HPV vaccination.
Unfortunately, even condoms may not protect you fully against HPV infections. That’s because transmission may occur outside of the areas covered by the condom. As such, the best form of protection is the HPV vaccination.
(That said, it’s still important to wear a condom, especially if you have multiple partners!)
In Singapore, the HPV vaccination is currently recommended for all females aged 9 to 26. If you’re within this age-range, you’ll be eligible for subsidies for the HPV vaccinations. The vaccine works best if it’s given before your first sexual exposure; however, if you’re already sexually active, you should still get vaccinated, if you are able to.
The HPV vaccine is also approved for use in males (although this may not be subsidised by the MOH). If you’re interested in taking the vaccine, do consult your doctor first to find out more about your suitability.
Currently, no booster shots are required after you have completed your vaccination.
Once you’ve completed the full HPV vaccination, there shouldn’t be a need for additional doses or a booster shot.
However, as with all vaccines, the HPV vaccination doesn’t guarantee 100% immunity against the infection. You should also continue going for your routine health screening, so that you can stay on top of your health.
Not sure if you need to get a HPV vaccination? Speak to a doctor anytime on the DA app to learn more about the vaccine. You can also get vaccinated at any of our 9 island wide DA clinics.