It’s estimated that three out of every four sexually active Canadians will contract Human Papillomavirus (HPV) at some point in their lives and that puts them at risk for genital warts and as well as several types of cancer.
HPV is a sexually-transmitted disease which can lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer, vaginal and vulvular cancers, penile cancers, and mouth and throat cancers. Not all infections have symptoms or noticeable symptoms, so people may be carrying on the disease and passing it on to others without realizing it.
HPV is preventable
The disease is preventable and Canadians are being urged to take action by the Federation of Medical Women of Canada and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada. Here are their recommendations:
- Learn about STIs, including their signs, symptoms, consequences, and methods of transmission.
- Learn about safer sex methods and use them consistently. Correctly and consistently using a condom during sex may reduce your risk of getting HPV, as well as preventing other STIs. However, remember that the areas of skin not covered by the condom are not protected.
- Make informed decisions about your sexual health. Talk to your partner(s) about their STI status and the use of protection. Remember that the previous sexual behaviours of your partner are also a risk for you, especially if they have had multiple partners.
- Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about HPV vaccination for you and your family members – vaccines are available in Canada, to help prevent infections from various types of HPV. If you were not immunized against HPV in school, it may not be too late.
- If you are a male who has sex with men, you are at higher risk of HPV infection, and should consider vaccination against HPV.
- If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about HPV prevention. Remember that most sexually active people will get at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Most people with a healthy immune system will eventually clear the infection from their bodies, but for some others, it can go on to cause genital warts or cancer.The best strategy is prevention.
In 2017, Canada became the first country to dedicate an annual week to raising awareness about ways to protect against HPV infection. In 2020, the week falls between October 5 and 11.