Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a highly transmissible virus, spread through different forms of sexual contact.
There are many different types of HPV that target different parts of the body, and there are approximately 40 types of HPV that affect the genital area and spread from person to person through sexual contact.
HPV type 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer in females, and 90% of HPV related cancer in males. Types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 are responsible for a further 20% of cervical cancer in females, and a further 5% of HPV related cancer in males.
Types 6 and 11 cause approximately 95% of genital warts.
Most people that have an infection with HPV are asymptomatic. Which means you can pass it on without knowing. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 Australians will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
HPV is responsible for genital warts also.
The HPV vaccine provide highly effective protection against the development of HPV related cancers and disease.
In Australia there are two types currently available, a 4 strain vaccine (G******l – strains 6, 11, 16 and 18) and the national immunisation program provides the 4 strain variety for free in schools to both males and females aged 12-13 years old. From the 2018, this will be replaced by a 9-strain HPV vaccine for all school aged children, and will also be privately available for those not covered by this program. This will protect against strains 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.
The best time to get vaccinated to provide the most protection is before becoming sexually active. However unless previously diagnosed with HPV related conditions, it is difficult to know what strains people have had.
There can be additional protection from having the vaccination even if you are older, or have been sexually active, or even had a proven HPV infection in the past.
For men who have sex with men, this can help reduce the risk of anal cancer by preventing infection of the strains responsible. For 4 strain vaccine these are strains 16 and 18, and for 9 strain vaccine these are strains 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
The risk of anal cancer for men who have sex with men is 40 times higher than the general population, and for men who have sex with men who are HIV positive, it is 100 times greater. So make sure you’ve had all three shots to reduce your risk.
The course of the 4 strain and the and 9 strain vaccine are 3 injections given at 0, 2 and 6 months.
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