What Is HPV?

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that affects both males and females. There are more than 100 types of the virus. In fact, certain types of HPV cause common warts on the hands and feet. Most types of HPV are harmless, do not cause any symptoms, and go away on their own.

About 40 types of HPV are known as genital HPV as they affect the genital area. Up to 80% of people will be infected with at least one genital type of HPV at some time in their lives.1 Anyone who has had any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact could get genital HPV.

Genital HPV types may be “high-risk” types (such as HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) or “low-risk” types (such as HPV types 6 and 11). “High-risk” HPV types can cause cervical cancer and some vaginal, vulval and anal cancers. “Low-risk” HPV types can cause genital warts. Both the “high-risk” and “low-risk” types of HPV can cause abnormal changes.

1. The Australian Immunization Handbook 10th Edition, 2013.