HPV (human papilloma virus) is given one generic name, but identifies any of nearly a hundred different sexually transmitted viruses. A few of the strains are associated with heightened cancer risks, which has lead to a call for widespread vaccination against these main strains for young women. Further studies have indicated that there is also protection for older women in the current vaccines that are available, though insurance companies have yet to catch up to paying a portion of costs for older women at this time. Deciding to take the vaccine or not is one important health decision. How to conduct one’s sexual behavior with the knowledge of HPV risk presents another set of important decisions.
Admittedly, many people do not consider HPV to be very serious. Some statistics say that close to 80% of young women twenty-four and under have been exposed to the virus. There is some controversy about its staying power. Some say that once exposed to the virus, it stays in the host orifice, usually dormant after any initial outbreak, for life. Others say that it passes through the body and all that is left are its antibodies. It may well depend on the particular strain and the immune system of the person in question. In most cases, HPV doesn’t cause any particular ailment. However, the high-risk strains are mentioned in conjunction with cervical cancer and some oral cancers.
HPV is transmitted through heterosexual or same-sex intercourse. It does not discriminate based on who you are fucking. In this case, it is wise to use a condom each time intercourse occurs. Many people, especially young people, consider oral sex a very low-risk behavior, but it is not no-risk. Taking the time to be confident of partners; statuses is one important way to reduce risk. As with the condom rule, one can also choose to use dental dams (or even plastic wrap in a pinch) as an oral barrier. When sharing sex toys, condoms used each time reduce the risk of HPV as well.
Each individual must decide how to navigate safer sex. Honesty about STI status and diligence in not re-transmitting any STI is a great way to show partners you care. Consider regular STI testing and staying up to date on safer sex options.