Prevention of HPV
Can you prevent HPV?
Because the HPV virus is so contagious, total prevention of the HPV virus is not easy.
Abstinence of all sexual contact, even skin-to-skin sexual activity without penetration, is the only way to avoid contracting the HPV virus.
Lifelong monogamy – having one long term sexual partner – is another effective way to avoid contracting the HPV virus.
Limiting the number of partners – the more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of contracting HPV.
Using condoms is an excellent prevention strategy for sexually transmitted infections. Condoms may not eliminate completely the risk of transmitting HPV because the virus can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact beyond the covered area. However, condom use is a good risk-reduction strategy and provides excellent protection against other sexually transmitted infections.
Regular Pap testing is the only way to detect abnormal cells in your cervix that could lead to cervical cancer later in life. A woman should have a Pap test within three years of becoming sexually active, and then repeat testing every two years.
Vaccination against HPV
Vaccines have been developed to prevent you from contracting the HPV virus and could dramatically help reduce the incidence of HPV-related complications such as genital and anal warts and cervical cancer. In Canada, there are three vaccines that are available and approved for use, each of which protects against certain HPV types:
- 2-valent HPV vaccine - protects against HPV types 16 and 18
- 4-valent HPV vaccine - protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18
- 9-valent HPV vaccine - protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58
Speak to your health professionals to see if you are the right candidate for vaccination, to learn about the cost and availability in your province, or to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.