What can I do to help protect myself from HPV infection and disease?
Because HPV is so easily passed on, it is quite difficult to prevent yourself from
being infected with this common virus. Up to 80% of females and males will be
infected with at least one type of HPV at some time in their life. But remember
that most people clear HPV infection from their body without any symptoms or health
If used correctly, condoms can help reduce the risk of genital HPV. However condoms
don't provide 100% protection against HPV as it is transmitted through genital skin
contact not just sexual intercourse. It is important to remember that condoms also
provide protection against other sexually transmitted diseases.
It is now possible to be vaccinated against some types of HPV.
In females, vaccination may help protect against cervical cancer, some vaginal,
vulval and anal cancers and genital warts.
In males vaccination may help protect against genital warts and some anal cancers.
The Australian Government funds HPV vaccination for 12-13 year old girls in schools as part of the National Immunisation Program. Commencing in the 2013 school year the Australian Government will also fund HPV vaccination for 12-13 year old boys as part of the school-based HPV vaccination program. In addition, there will be a catch up program for adolescent boys aged 14-15 years in designated school years which may vary between States.
For females aged up to 45 years and males aged up to 26 years, HPV vaccination is not Government funded, but is available as a private prescription. Speak to your GP for further information.
Vaccination does not protect against all HPV types that could cause cervical cancer therefore it is important women continue with regular Pap smears.
Talk to your healthcare professional for more information
Have regular Pap smears
Your risk of developing cervical cancer can be reduced by having regular Pap smears
which are an early detection screening program. Always make sure you receive the
result of your Pap smear from your healthcare professional.
Pap smears are usually performed every 2 years, unless your GP or nurse has asked
you to have them more frequently. Regular Pap smears are a very good way of picking
up abnormal cervical cells (pre-cancers) before they progress into cervical cancer.
If you are, or have ever been, sexually active (with either male or female partners)
you should be having 2-yearly Pap smears, starting when you are 18 to 20 years old,
and continuing through until age 70.