Helping you get through tough times

Human papilloma virus

Genital warts and cervical cancer are caused by contraction of the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV, some of which are sexually transmitted.

blue and green abstractSome cause genital warts (often referred to as low-risk HPV) while others are termed high-risk, as they can cause cervical cancer.

Warts can grow on the penis, anus or vagina (both inside and outside).

How do I catch human papilloma virus?

HPV is passed on through direct contact with warts or skin that’s infected. So, you can catch HPV by having oral, anal or vaginal sex with a person who carries the virus.

About 50% of people infected with HPV never develop genital warts, but can still pass on the virus.

Wearing condoms will not guarantee protection against HPV.

How do I find out if I have it?

There’s no special test for HPV. A doctor can tell if you have genital warts by examining you. The HPV virus may also show up in a cervical smear test.

See sexual health to find out more about getting examined.

If your smear test shows that HPV has caused changes to your cervix, you may have to go to a specialist for treatment.

For more information check Think Contraception for a list of sexual health clinics around the country. Call your local clinic to talk in confidence to a sexual health nurse.

Vaccination

Two vaccines are available that protect against the most common HPV strains that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

The vaccines do not protect against diseases caused by HPV strains already established within the individual. For this reason the vaccine is generally given before the start of sexual activity.

If you go to clinic for a test, will they tell your parents?

According to the law, you can request and receive medical care for yourself once you’re 16-years-old.

At the sexual health clinic, the information you give the staff is completely confidential.

It can’t be shared with your parents or people you know, unless the law requires staff to do so. An example of this would be if health staff thought you were at risk of serious harm.

In this case the clinic is required to report this to the duty social worker in the Health Service Executive (HSE). Another example might be if your files were required in a court case.

This article was last reviewed on 03 May 2017

What can I do now?

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook