Posted: Mar 30, 2012 1:43 PM
At least 50 percent of sexually active people carry HPV. If you’ve been diagnosed, don’t stress out about the stigma behind a sexually transmitted infection. Learn to take control of your health and lower your cancer risk with regularly scheduled pelvic exams.

According to the CDC, at least half of sexually active people get HPV. Half is a pretty big chunk if you think about it. While that initial call from your gynecologist can be scary or embarrassing, it's important to know that there's nothing shameful about carrying this common sexually transmitted infection. Learn what HPV is and how you should take care of yourself after a diagnosis.

HPV is a sneaky virus

There are dozens of types of HPV, and some of them affect the mouth and throat. Your partner doesn't have to have any symptoms for you to be able to catch it, and you don't have to have penetrative sex to transmit the virus. All it takes is genital contact. To make matters worse, you can carry HPV for years without experiencing any symptoms. Many people contract HPV and go on to have monogamous relationships for years without realizing they have it. Doctors only catch HPV during routine pap smears, which means guys generally have no way of knowing when they have HPV.

HPV doesn’t make you a slut

A sexually transmitted infection isn't a mark on your character. It doesn't change who you are and it shouldn't change how others, especially your partner, see you. If you're diagnosed with HPV, it's completely reasonable to feel upset, but you should try to dust yourself off and carry on. After all, you're definitely not alone in carrying the virus.

If you have HPV, ask your doctor how often you should be screened and always keep your appointments.

HPV can give you cancer

Once you're over feeling bad about contracting HPV, don't put it out of mind. The real problem with HPV is the fact that along with sometimes causing genital warts, it can cause cervical cancer. The CDC reports that in the U.S., about 12,000 women get cervical cancer from HPV each year. For most people, the immune system clears HPV out within a couple of years. For those who don't, it's important to get regular pap smears to check for cell abnormalities that could be early signs of cervical cancer. If you have HPV, ask your doctor how often you should be screened and always keep your appointments.

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