Beyond the Surface: Understanding Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus infection is a common STI caused by multiple types of HPV. In most cases, HPV infection goes away on its own within two years without having any health effects but in some it can cause genital warts or cancers.  


How do I know?

HPV does not usually cause any symptoms. Most people who have it do not realize and do not have any problems. But sometimes the virus can cause painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus (genital warts).


How do we get infected? And how do I protect myself?

Human Papilloma Viruses (HPV) spread through sex – oral/vaginal/anal sex, close skin-skin contact during sexual activities. Deep kissing also has a small amount of risk of transmission. 

Vaccination can protect you against infection with major virus types especially the strains that have the risk to cause cancers. The current vaccine protects against nine different HPV types and thus against 95% of the cancer-causing HPV types.

It is best to be vaccinated prior to engaging in sexual activity. But it is still effective afterwards.

Here is a list of places that offer HPV vaccinations


How is it treated?

Most people are asymptomatic and may not need treatment. There are no specific antiviral drugs that are used against this infection. But symptoms like genital warts, precancer lesions are treated. Regular PAP smears are advised for people with vagina. Early detection of any changes / precancerous lesions can be well managed and complications prevented.

Want to know more about HPV? Visit our detailed guide on HPV: A Comprehensive Guide to Prevention, Detection, and Management.


Check out more content on STIs like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis A/B, Hepatitis C, Herpes, Genital Warts, Crabs, Scabies, Fungi.

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About the Author: Raju Behara (she/they), a trans-disabled Peer Support Provider with a decade of healthcare experience, holds a Masters in Pharmacology and a PG Diploma in Health Economics, Health Policy at the Indian Institute of Public Health. Aligned with the Safe Access Community Wellbeing Project, Raju has contributed to LGBTQIA+ safety in Indian workplaces, drafting gender-neutral dress codes and working on sensitization. A published author and poet in various anthologies, Raju, through EQUAL fellowship, chronicled social histories of housing, healthcare and workplace discrimination for queer-trans individuals in India. They initiated ‘Queer & Quarantine’, a crisis intervention program for trans folks facing housing challenges.

Article Vetted by: Dr. Swathi SB


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