HPV – Identify and Treatment
Ever since the AIDs epidemic of the 80’s, a keen awareness of the dangers of STDs has almost gone hand in hand, with the identity of being a gay man in the modern world. From condoms, to PrEP, and PEP, as individuals throughout the community are constantly taking measures to balance their desire for intimacy; with the very real threat of sexually related infection or disease.
However, there’s one infection however that often goes overlooked in this quest for safety, and it’s an STI that affects an estimated 80% of the people in the world; the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
What Is HPV?
What makes HPV so ubiquitous is its ease of transmission. Whereas HIV and other STDs require the exchange of certain bodily fluids, such as blood or semen in order to infect victims; HPV is spread through any kind of simple skin-to-skin contact that takes place between the genitals, mouth or throat.
Currently there are about 170 known strains of this virus, with about 40 of them occurring in the genitals, while others can show up as warts on the mouth, hands, or even feet. Most genital HPV are either type 6, or type 11 infections. These infections show up as warts in the genital region, and whilst they may be unsightly, they’re usually painless, and harmless, posing no risk of further infection or disease.
Other variations of the disease such as type 16, 31, 33 or 45; aren’t so harmless however. These types of HPV invade the lining of the throat, mouth, respiratory tract and genitals, causing a severely increased risk of cancer. Recent studies show that 91% of cervical and anal cancer patients show signs of HPV infection. Gay men in particular show a 20 times higher risk of developing anal cancer as a result of HPV infection, with HIV positive gay men showing a whooping 100 times great chance of developing the disease.
In a scenario like this learning to protect yourself against HPV is a vital step in safeguarding against the threat of cancer.
How to Vaccinate for HPV
Those of us in Australia are actually at ground zero for getting HPV vaccination information. The first vaccinations were actually developed by Australian scientists in 2006 under the name of Gardasil; and were shortly implemented amongst all secondary school girls and boys to great success, reducing infection rates by 87%. The vaccine protects against the most dangerous types of HPV: type 6, 18, 6 and 11. It is administered in 3 doses over a 6 month period.
For sexually active adults and teenagers looking to protect themselves against the disease, the vaccine must be prescribed by a GP and will cost in the region of $460. Unfortunately many strains of HPV don’t reveal their symptoms for years, if ever; so if you suspect you have caught the disease then please visit your local healthcare clinic for a complete check up.