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What is HPV and how does a person get it?

Learn about the virus and its devastating effects

HPV is a virus that infects the cervix of women and genital areas of both men and women.

What is the cervix? The cervix is the canal at the tip of the uterus through which sperm passes to fertilize a woman’s egg and through which the baby passes when it is born.

The majority of infections are not harmful, but the most common types of HPV can cause very serious disease such as genital warts, cervical cancer and other diseases. Cervical cancer develops many years after a person is infected with HPV.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women and the most common cause of death from cancer among women in Africa.

How common is HPV?

HPV infections are very common! HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. About 80% of men and women will become infected at some point in their lives, and it is especially common among women up to age 25.

How does a person get HPV?

HPV is spread through direct, skin-to-skin, contact with an infected area. This can be any intimate contact with an infected area.

Do condoms protect against HPV infection?

Condoms prevent HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea but not HPV infections. That is because the virus spread through skin-to-skin contact.

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