Uncovering the most viral secret - HPV
HPV is the name of a very common group of viruses, which are often very misunderstood.
In the UK all girls aged 24 and a half will get a letter from the NHS inviting them for cervical screening. Now cervical screening and smear tests are a separate issue I'll cover but essentially once you go for the test your sample is sent to the lab and the very first thing it'll be tested for is HPV.
In an ideal world your results will come back and you'll have a clean bill of health. But the thing is, most girls will receive a HPV diagnosis. So what does this even mean? A quick google search leads you to all sorts of nasties including cancer.
A more reasonable chat with your doctor will reveal to you that HPV affects your skin and there are more than 100 different types of the virus, if like me, you've had your HPV jab in school then you're protected against more than 80% of the nasty types.
Some 'high-risk' types of HPV can cause changes to the cells in the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer if they're not treated. But thats the point of smear tests, to make sure these abnormal cells are seen by your doctor and picked up.
For most people, it really doesn't cause any problems some types of HPV can cause warts but not all of them. If your doctor tells you it really isn't anything to worry about, then trust them. It isn't.
HPV is a virus which one in three people actually have, right now.
Theres no blood test you can take to diagnose you with the virus and 90% of people will come into contact with some form of it in their lifetime. Generally your body will clear the virus for you within two years, so you might not even know that you've got it.
Its classed as a STI but its nothing to be ashamed of.
You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus and it can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person.
If you do get a diagnosis of HPV it doesn't mean that you've been unfaithful even if you're in a long term relationship. The virus can sit inside your body for years and years without causing any problems.
So how can you stop yourself getting it?
Long story short, you can't. But there are things you can do which can help you protect yourself.
Condoms won't fully protect you as they don't cover all the skin around your genitals, but they're absolutely better than nothing at all.
You can also get a HPV Vaccine (that I mentioned earlier ) which protects against most of the nastier types of HPV, but again it doesn't protect against all of them.
HPV is such a common infection yet there's still a stigma attached to it and you can start questioning things. If you do need any more information about HPV the best place you can go is your doctors surgery or the NHS website