Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) – and most sexually active people get it in their lifetime.
Most of the approximately 40 types of HPV cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types of HPV can bring serious health problems, including genital warts and cancers.
The chances of contracting HPV can be reduced by limiting your number of sexual partners, choosing a partner who has had few or no prior sex partners and staying in a monogamous relationship. Because even one sexual encounter can cause infection, teenagers can be at risk. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that boys and girls aged 11 to 12 years old receive two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against HPV-associated cancers and genital warts.
“The HPV vaccine is an amazing scientific breakthrough that literally prevents cancer,” states Sheila Nolan, MD, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “We spend so much time, money and effort fighting cancer, but this vaccine is an incredibly safe and effective method that prevents HPV–associated cancers. Choosing to vaccinate seems like a simple choice to me.”
If not administered in early adolescence (<15 years old), three catch-up vaccines are recommended for males (through age 21), females (through age 26) and transgender adults (through age 26). Three doses are also recommended (through age 26) for gay/bisexual men, and men and women with compromised immune systems — including those living with HIV/AIDS.