HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that, for the most part, has few or no symptoms. While that sounds like a good thing, in reality that leads to a large part of the population being infected – and able to transmit the virus – without being aware of what’s happening.
In the long run, those factors have contributed to a large number of people – nearly 80 million and counting – being infected in the United States alone.
And there is a giant caveat to the “few or no symptoms” bit: while most strains of HPV (there are a lot of strains) are not super harmful, some of them cause cancer.
HPV is also the virus that causes genital warts, so there’s that, too.
There is no test to spot HPV in men, so most probably never find out they have it – and will continue to pass it on, the whole while. HPV can lay dormant for years, showing up only on an abnormal pap smear or when the first signs of cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, and throat start to appear.
In 2006, the vaccine Gardasil was approved for boys and girls aged 9-26 to help curb the spread of HPV. Recently, the FDA approved the latest version of the vaccine for everyone up to the age of 45. Gardasil 9 has been proven to protect against nine strains of the virus – better than the previous version, which protected only against 5.
Prior to the approval, the FDA conducted a study that tracked 3200 women for three and a half years. CNN reported that the study “found that Gardasil 9 was 88% effective in the prevention of vulvar, vaginal, and cervical lesions, cervical cancer, and genital warts.”
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, released this statement:
“Today’s approval represents an important opportunity to help prevent HPV-related diseases and cancers in a broader age range. HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected with the HPV types covered by the vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers, or 31,200 cases every year, from ever developing.”
The FDA approval will also encourage insurance companies to cover the vaccine, which can cost $400-$500 out of pocket.
Stay safe out there, friends. Do your research, talk to your doctor about protecting yourself, and don’t forget to get tested for STDs on the reg!