Can human papilloma virus (HPV) be prevented?

Using condoms correctly every time you have sex can help reduce the risk of HPV. You should be aware, however, that condoms do not cover all of the genital skin, so they are not 100 percent effective in protecting against the spread of HPV. A person with genital warts should not have sex until the warts are removed. This might help reduce the risk of spreading HPV.

Here are some other ways of reducing the risk of HPV:

  • Women should have regular Pap tests to look for abnormal changes in the cervix that might be pre-cancer.
  • Men and women should stop having sexual contact as soon as they know or think they have genital warts, and they should seek treatment immediately.
  • Get vaccinated with one of the three available HPV vaccines. Gardasil® and Gardasil9® protect against the development of cervical cancer and genital warts. They are approved for girls and women ages 9 to 26, as well as for boys and men ages 9 to 26 to protect against genital warts. The third vaccine, called Cervarix®, is approved for women only to protect against cervical cancer (does not protect against several of the HPV strains that cause warts).

It is best to get the vaccine before the start of sexual activity. The vaccine consists of a series of three shots, with the second shot coming two months after the first, and the third coming six months after the first. If you already have HPV, the vaccine does not treat or cure, but can still help protect against other types of HPV infections.

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