Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are ones that pass from one person to another through sexual contact. This can be from vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and from genital-to-genital contact. STIs are also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Signs & Symptoms

In Females and Males

Often, there are no visible signs or symptoms. Genital warts can appear several weeks after being infected or may not show up for months or even years. This makes it hard to know when the virus was acquired and which partner was the carrier. Genital warts:

•  Can be soft or hard; pink, red, or yellow-gray in color.

•  Are inside the vagina, on the lips of the vagina, or around the anus in females.

•  Are on the penis, inside the head of the penis, on the scrotum, or around the anus in males.


HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal, or (rarely) oral sex with an infected partner. Genital warts are not caused by touching warts on the feet, hands, etc.



•  HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer* and genital warts due to HPV. It is advised for boys and girls 11 to 12 years of age, but can be given from age 9 to age 26.

•  Genital warts can be treated with topical creams or a gel prescribed by a doctor. You apply these yourself. Medical treatments can remove genital warts.

American Social Health Association (ASHA)


CDC National STD Hotline

800.CDC.INFO (232.4636)

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

Safer Sex To Help Prevent STIs

•  The only sure way to avoid STIs is not having sex. This includes intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and genital-to-genital contact. Caressing, hugging, dry kissing, and masturbation are no risk or extremely low-risk practices. So is limiting your sexual contact to one person your entire life. This is if your partner does not have an STI and has sex only with you.

•  Latex and polyurethane condoms can help reduce the risk of spreading HIV and other STIs (i.e., chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis). To do this, they must be used the right way for every sex act. They do not get rid of the risk entirely. Barriers made of natural membranes, such as from lamb, do not give good protection against STIs.

•  Females and males should use latex or polyurethane condoms every time they have genital-to-genital contact and/or oral sex. Use polyurethane condoms if either partner is allergic to latex. You don’t need condoms to prevent STIs if you have sex only with one partner and neither of you has an STI.

•  For oral-vaginal sex and oral-anal sex, use latex dams (“doilies”). These are latex squares.

•  Latex condoms with spermicides, such as nonoxynol-9 (N–9) are no better than other lubricated condoms for preventing HIV/STIs. Spermicides with N–9 do not prevent chlamydia, cervical gonorrhea, or HIV. on’t use spermicides alone to prevent HIV/STIs. Using spermicides with N–9 often has been linked with genital lesions which may increase the risk of spreading HIV. Also, N–9 may increase the risk of spreading HIV during anal intercourse.

•  Use water-based lubricants, such as K-Y Brand Jelly. Don’t use oil-based or “petroleum” ones, such as Vaseline. They can damage latex barriers.

•  To lower your risk for HPV, use latex or polyurethane condoms. These work best at covering areas of the body that HPV is most likely to affect. A diaphragm does not prevent the spread of HPV.

•  Don’t have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You are less likely to use “safer sex” measures.

•  Limit sexual partners. Sexual contact with many persons increases the risk for STIs, especially if no protection is used.

•  Discuss a new partner’s sexual history with him or her before you start having sex. Know that persons are not always honest about their sexual past.

•  Avoid sexual contact with persons whose health status and health practices are not known.

•  Follow your doctor’s advice to check for STIs.


•  If you are female, don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.

•  A vaccine for HPV is advised for girls 11 to 12 years of age, but can be given to females from age 9 to age 26.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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