It can be tough to talk about the birds and bees with others especially if you’ve been brought up in a conservative household. However, let’s break the stigma surrounding sexual and reproductive health together and foster meaningful conversations around it. Curious about contraceptives? Let’s learn more about it from an expert. Looking for intimate care products? We’ve got you covered.
This time, we’re here to give you the full download on HPV — a sexually transmitted infection that’s particularly prevalent among sexually active young adults today. In fact, up to one in two people are exposed to it, according to Dr Chia Yin Nin, a Gynaecological Oncologist at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore. Read on as Dr Chia tells us all the key info that you need to know about HPV.
What is HPV?
“HPV, which stands for Human Papilloma Virus, can be transmitted via sexual activity and when there’s a contact of body fluids. As for the demographic that’s most susceptible to this infection, the peak age group is in young women who are between their 20s and 30s,” shares Dr Chia, whose main area of speciality is in the management and treatment of gynaecological cancers.
Even if you’re not sexually active at the moment, it is still important that you ensure that you’ve not contracted HPV by making an appointment with your gynaecologist, warns Dr Chia: “A previous sexual contact that you’ve experienced from many years ago can still expose you to HPV infection. You are only free of risk if you’ve never had any contact with your partners or engaged in sexual activities including fondling and petting.”
So, what are the symptoms of HPV?
The symptoms of HPV aren’t as straightforward as you’d think. Furthermore, they differ according to their levels of risk. “There are two main subgroups for HPV infections. Low-risk infections, which can cause genital warts. They present themselves as warty growth in the anogenital areas.”
“On the other hand, high-risk infections do not cause warts and are asymptomatic, meaning that they can only be picked up through HPV testing and a pap smear screening — a procedure that tests for cervical cancer in women. That said, high-risk HPV infections can cause certain types of cancers such as cervical cancer, vulva cancer and vagina cancer,” added Dr Chia.
Does contracting HPV equate to having cancer?
With this serious disease in the picture, most of us might assume that every person who’s contracted HPV is bound to have cancer. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Dr Chia clarifies: “Most HPV infections are transient and are resolved spontaneously over 12 to 18 months. However, if the infection persists (which occurs in 20 per cent of people who’re infected), these individuals are more at risk of developing anogenital cancers.”
How to manage HPV?
Now that we’re up to speed on the potential risks of contracting HPV, how can we treat it or prevent it? “There is no treatment for HPV, and you’ll need to depend on your body’s immune system to clear it. The only effective preventative measure against HPV infection is to go for a HPV vaccination,” advises Dr Chia.
Beyond keeping yourself informed on various sexual health issues including HPV, Dr Chia hopes that young women will feel more empowered about protecting themselves: “Get yourself vaccinated if you haven’t and make time for regular health screenings! Eat right, stay fit and always prioritise your health.”
(Cover photo from: Puwadon Sang-ngern via Pexels)
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