Human Papillomavirus Infection

by Michael_Koger

Worldwide, human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted disease.

In the United States, human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease. Seventy-nine million Americans have it, and 14 million new infections emerge there yearly (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).

Nearly every sexually active adult in that country will eventually acquire the infection. Those who are in a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner have protection against HPV infection. Usage of condoms, to some extent, prevents transmission as well. Moreover, the human papillomavirus vaccine is a safe and effective method of prevention (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).

More than 100 Virus Types

There are more than 100 virus types for this microbe, and 30 of them spread sexually.  Nearly every case of cervical cancer in women is the result of HPV infection, and high-risk forms of the virus are responsible for this disease.  Low-risk HPV types may lead to genital warts.  In any event, diseases such as these tend to occur when HPV infection has been present for several months or years (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).

High-risk forms of the virus may lead to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and the oropharyngeal region of the human body.  Uncommonly, pregnant women with genital warts can spread it to their offspring during delivery, and should it infect the respiratory tract, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis may occur in the infant. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 2010).

Most cases of this infection resolve within a few weeks to a couple of years, and patients do not always experience any symptoms.  Hence, they may never know that the disease is present, but this does not prevent transmission to the other sexual partner.  One sexual encounter with someone who has HPV may be sufficient to acquire the virus (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). 

Modes of Transmission

Human papillomavirus infection transmits via oral, vaginal, or anal sex, and heterosexuals as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals may transmit or acquire the disease.  Intercourse is not necessary to spread it person-to-person as contact with the sexual partner’s skin is enough to make that happen. 

Condoms, therefore, do not afford complete protection because the skin lesions of HPV may be present on the thighs, anus, scrotum, penis, groin, vagina, vulva, cervix, and oral cavity (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).  In other words, condoms cover only the penis, and the lesions on other parts of the body may spread the disease when sexual partners come in contact with them.


Human papillomavirus infection is a worldwide public health problem which requires health behavior change and sex education to resolve it.


  1. Centers for Disease Control.  (2013).  Human papillomavirus (HPV).  Retrieved August 10, 2013. 
  2. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  (2010).  Human papillomavirus (HPV) and genital warts.  Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  3. The photo shows the oral cavity of an HIV-positive individual who has also acquired human papillomavirus infection.  Reprinted with permission from Centers for Disease Control/Sol Silverman, Jr., D.D.S.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 08/11/2013, Michael_Koger
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