Courtney Weaver is all by her herself this week, so she takes the opportunity to discuss another STI in depth – HPV! She provides information on transmission, symptomology, and prevention! For all WVU students, remember that you can order safer sex supplies FOR FREE right here: https://well.wvu.edu/resources/sexual-health/condom-caravan
Welcome. Welcome. Welcome everyone to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver. I'm also the director of WellWVU here at West Virginia University. And today I am joined by no one. So I'm all by my lonesome today, but that's okay. By the time this episode is released, it is going to be almost April.
And the interesting thing about April is that it's an awareness month for 15 different issues. So this includes Alcohol Awareness Month. It's also Stress Awareness Month. It's National Autism Awareness Month. It's National Minority Health Month, and it's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Now speaking of sexual assault awareness and prevention, if you're on campus, check out some of the events that are happening from numerous camp as partners and from us at WellWVU, there's a lot of great stuff going on to raise awareness and talk about how to prevent sexual assault on campus. But the other thing about April is that it is STI Awareness Month and you know, me, I love to talk about STS.
So we've already done an episode about chlamydia and gonorrhea. So today, We are going to talk about HPV. Yes. And our information that I got today for this podcast, I pulled from both the planned Parenthood website, which is always a great source of information and the CDC, which is the center for disease control and prevention.
So let's dive right in. So, first of all, what is HPV? What does it stand for? Well, HPV stands for human papilloma virus. It's a viral, sexually transmitted infection. That's transmitted from sexual skin to skin contact. Now this means that HPV can be spread even if no one orgasms. And even if there's no penetration of any kind.
Now, remember there are three types of STEs. Bacterial viral and parasitic now bacterial and parasitic STI are curable, but viral SDIs are treatable, not curable, so you can treat the symptoms, but the virus is something that you may have to manage now. HPV is the most common, sexually transmitted infection.
Now this can get kind of confusing because when we talked about chlamydia you'll, if you remember, I mean, it was a while ago, but chlamydia is the most commonly reported STI and trichomoniasis, which is a parasitic infection is actually the most common curable STI, but HPV. By and large is the most common STI.
And that's mostly because there are more than 200 different strains of HPV. So of those 200 types, about 40 of them can affect the genital area. So that includes the vulva, the vagina, the cervix, the rectum, the anus, the penis, and the scrotum. And that's in addition to your mouth and throat. Because there are so many types, most folks who have sex will get a strain of HPV at some point in their lives.
But there's no reason to feel afraid or ashamed of that. So most people with HPV have no symptoms and feel fine. So they don't know that they're infected. So most of the time, it's not a big deal because your body does clear it up. It's when we get into those low risk and high risk strains, that things start to happen.
You might notice something. So. When we talk about the low risk strains, those are the ones that cause genital wards. So the numbers for those types, there's type six and 11 now wards. Aren't exactly fun to deal with. But they don't lead to cancer or other serious health problems. So that's why they're deemed low risk.
Now, there are at least a dozen types of HPV that can sometimes lead to cancer, but there are two in particular, which are types 16 and 18 that lead to the majority of cancer cases. So these are the ones that are known as the high risk strains of HPV. Now, if you've paid attention to any kind of commercial where they talk about the vaccine for HPV, which we will also talk about a little bit later you'll know that cervical cancer is the most common cancer that's linked to HPV, but HPV can also cause cancer in the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat.
So now let's talk symptoms. Like we said before, most people who contract HPV don't experience any symptoms and don't experience any health problems because of it. Now, if someone is experiencing genital warts basically what those look like is that they're harmless growths on the side. Skin of the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, or anus, they looked like fleshy, soft bumps.
And sometimes they can look like mini cauliflower. They're usually painless and can be treated or removed by a healthcare provider. Now it's important to note that only healthcare provider like a doctor or a nurse. Can diagnose and treat genital warts and genital warts are a recurrent issue since there is no cure, because remember it's a viral STI but genital warts are not dangerous, but no, you can still pass the HPV that caused them to other people.
So you want to take precautions, which we'll talk about in a little bit. Now, if someone has contracted a high-risk strain of HPV that actually doesn't have any outward physical symptoms and another tricky thing that I. Don't care for about HPV is that there's no straightforward test. It's not like you can pee in a cup like you would for a chlamydia or gonorrhea or a blood test like you would for syphilis.
There's no straightforward test now. Cervical cancer can be prevented by finding abnormal cell changes through a pap smear. And so regular checkups that include your pap smear are important. And so those are normal. Cell changes are caused by HPV, and that's kind of how they determined that someone has contracted it now.
The abnormal cells in the service can be detected and treated before they turn into cancer. So that's the good news. And so that's why regular pap smears are so important. Now the age for first pap smear, for those who have a cervix is 21 years of age, which is regardless of sexual experience. And then not everyone needs to get a pap smear every year, but you should be having conversations with your doctor at your annual checkup to see if you need to get one.
And now what. Does that actually entail? So basically during a pap, a doctor or a nurse will put a speculum into the vagina and then they'll use a special stick or a soft brush to collect some cells from the outside of the cervix. It's not the most comfortable procedures, but thankfully it is done very quickly.
So now when we're talking about HPV outside of the cervix there isn't a high risk HPV test for the Volvo penis anus or throat. But if it becomes cancer, then someone might experience symptoms. So for example, penile cancer symptoms might include changes in the color or thickness of the skin of your penis.
Or a painful sore that might show up on the penis anal cancer. The symptoms for that can include anal bleeding, pain, itching, or discharge, or changes in bowel habits for Volver cancer or cancer of the Volvo symptoms can include changes in the color thickness of the skin of your vulva. And there may be chronic pain, itching, or alum.
And then for throat cancer symptoms can include a sore throat, ear pain that doesn't go away, constant coughing pain, or trouble swallowing, or breathing, weight loss, or a lump or mess in your neck. So now let's talk about prevention. There's some actually really solid ways to prevent HPV so that it doesn't have to escalate into those things like cancer that we just talked about.
So let's get down to it the best way to avoid contracting any STI is to not have sex at all. Right. That's my practicing, the old standby of abstinence, but we understand that that's not an option that everyone wants to use. So, if you are choosing to be sexually active, make sure that you are using a barrier method consistently and correctly, each time you have sex.
So barrier methods include things like internal condoms that go inside the vagina or the anus, external condoms that cover a penis or a sex toy latex gloves, or finger cots. When you're using your fingers for sexual activity dental dams, which are used for oral sex on the Volvo or the anus. And then flavored condoms, which are for oral sex on the penis.
Now, Welter BBU. My department has a lot of these items that you can get for free through our condom caravan program, which you can find the information for on our website. Now, please note, because HPV is transmitted through skin to skin, contact condoms, don't fully protect you the way they would with you are trying to prevent chlamydia gonorrhea, which are spread through the exchange of fluids.
But they do lower your risk. Another thing that you can do to protect yourself is to maintain regular visits with your healthcare provider. So make sure that you're getting pap smears. If you're over the age of 21 and have a cervix, and also make sure that you're getting tested for STI, you know, annually or in between partners.
And speaking of partners make sure that you're actually talking to your sexual partners about things like sexual history, getting tested and what kind of protection you want to use. And please note that sexual history is not the number of people that you have been with. I think it's really important for us to know that.
That actually tells us nothing. What's more important is what were the activities you did with previous partners, how you protected yourself, where you test it on a regular basis, all that kind of stuff. So history is not just a number. And finally, let's talk about getting vaccinated because. HPV is one of the few STS that actually has a vaccination available and it's highly effective.
So this particular vaccine that people can get as young as the age of nine years old, and people up to the age of 45 are actually eligible to receive the vaccine. Now, if you're between the ages of 15 and 45, the vaccine is delivered in three separate shots over a period of six months. If you're under the age of 15, you actually only need to get.
Two shots. The current most common vaccine is called Gardasil nine and it protects against you guessed it nine different strains of HPV, including types 16 and 18, which are the two types that cause about 80% of cervical cancer cases types six and 11 that cause 90% of genital warts. And another five types, which are 31 33 45, 52 and 58 that can lead to cancer of the cervix anus, vulva, vagina, penis, or throat.
So there are probably some folks that see this vaccine as controversial because HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and that we're giving it to young people, you know, at as early as nine years of age. But in truth, the vaccine is actually most effective. If you get it long before you start having sex.
So it's a good idea to get it when you're young. There was also a lot of talk. When this vaccine was released that getting, it would encourage young people to have more sex or to start having sex at a younger age. But actually numerous studies have been conducted that have shown that this is not the case.
The vaccine did not encourage young people to have sex. It actually just protects them from genital warts and cancer and adulthood. Now, if you currently have an HPV infection, the vaccine can't treat it but it can help protect you from contracting the other types that it does prevent. And the good thing is that many health insurance companies cover the cost of the vaccine because I believe.
Without insurance it'll cost about $250 per injection. But if you have health insurance check with them, they probably cover it. It's also available for a low at low or no cost at your local health department or planned Parenthood. And finally, please note that this shot is for everyone regardless of gender.
When it was first released, it seemed to be only. Available for women, but now it is available for everyone. So I encourage you. If you're interested in getting vaccinated for HPV, that you look into it and talk with your doctor about it.
All right, then. Well, that about wraps it up for me and this edition of a Wellbeing Wednesdays. I appreciate you all taking the time to listen to this little podcast of ours and we will catch you next time.