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HPV: Three little words that you should know

HPV. Yep, it’s another 3-letter abbreviation to a virus with a long name and too many syllables to for the human brain to remember. But this is one you should remember. Why is this different from all the rest? Well the number one reason is that you probably have it or have come into contact with it already. Got your attention yet?
            An estimate of 75%-80% of both males and females will be infected at some point in their lifetime. Think that number is high? Well then keep in mind that the prime ages for this are between 15 and 24. Yep, that’s prime time college years; the years where we get drunk and even our smartest decision are stupid. One last shocker is that in order to receive or transmit this virus, sexual intercourse is not necessary. You can get it from any kind of genital contact that means kissing, licking, and touching, or whatever you do in the bedroom or on the counter top.

            There are roughly around 200 types of HPV and about 6 million new cases of genital HPV each year in the United States. If those numbers don’t alarm you then the fact that you can have it and never even know, definitely should. Many times the virus shows no signs or symptoms and even clears up on its own. But for the times that it doesn’t, HPV can lead to some serious consequences.  As usual it’s worse in women, leading to precancers and cancers including cervical, vaginal, and vuvlar, as well as genital warts.  Most men only suffer from genital warts.
            “It’s an epidemic,” claims Dr. Michael Rovito, a public health professor at Temple.  As with any sexually transmitted virus or disease, it all stems from people making poor sexual decisions. “College students have sex,” he states bluntly. “Many times they let their guard down and don’t choose to wear a condom….the cycle continues….HPV keeps spreading.”

             If this is very common and there is a high percentage that you will come into contact with it during your prime partying years, why have most people never ever heard of it? “Because sex ed is so not uniformly executed or given to everybody in an equal fashion,” explains Rovito, claiming he never even had a sex ed class.  Even as a public health professor and a specialist in men’s health, the first time he ever heard of HPV was when he saw the Gardasil commercial. Gardasil is the only current vaccine out for the virus and only helps protect against 4 types of HPV.

            It’s a scary place out there in the world of sex.  But let’s be real, the “protect yourself speech” is something many of us have heard before. But when we’re college students nothing applies to us, we are these magical human beings who are incapable of catching any virus, right? WRONG. As the numbers continue to grow, three little letters, HPV, should become much more than that. Although we can shrink the name into three easy syllables we can’t shrink the effects of this very common virus.

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