ZocdocAnswersIs it true that most people who are sexually active have HPV and don?t know it?

Question

Is it true that most people who are sexually active have HPV and don?t know it?

I heard that like 75% of people who have sex have HPV and don?t know it. How is this possible? I?ve never had any symptoms but I heard that most people don?t. Should I be worried?

Answer

I'm not sure where you heard that but that is inaccurate. Perhaps you are confusing it with herpes which is far more ubiquitous. By the latest estimates, the prevalence of the HPV virus is about 27% of women and much less in men. In addition, the types that cause cancer (the most common of which are strains 16 and 18) are present in only about 3-4% of the population. That said, those strains account for 70% of the cervical cancers worldwide, so that's nothing to scoff at. The HPV vaccine protects against the two most common strains that cause warts (6 and 11) and the two most common strains that cause cancer (the aforementioned 16 and 18). Also important to note is that simply testing positive for the virus is not quite the same as having the disease. Unlike many viruses such as HIV, Herpes, Hepatitis B and C, etc. becoming infected with the virus does not necessarily always mean you will have it. The body is actually pretty good at clearing this virus. It's when it fails to do so in some people that the risk of cancer rises sharply. I would strongly encourage you to talk to you primary care physician and get the vaccine. The side-effects are minimal, and it provides good protection from a cancer that just doesn't need to exist.

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