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HPV Myths & Facts

Learn the top myths and facts about human papillomavirus (HPV) from sexpert Jane Bogart in this Howcast video.


One of the biggest myths about HPV is that it's different from genital warts: they're actually the same thing. HPV stands for "human papillomavirus," so since it's a virus, it's actually treatable but not necessarily curable, and HPV is genital warts. There are over a hundred different strains of HPV, but only four strains actually cause genital warts. A wart that you get on your thumb or on your toe is a strain of HPV, but it's not the same kind of HPV that you would get on your genitals, and I think that's a big myth for people. HPV is treatable, not necessarily curable; for most people the warts will go away, and a big myth about HPV is that you can only transmit it when the wart is present, but that's actually not true: it has been known to be transmitted even if there is not a wart present. So you can't tell, necessarily, by looking at someone, whether or not they have HPV, or by examining their genitals, whether or not they have HPV: often someone can have HPV and not have any signs or symptoms. The other myth about HPV is that all the warts are visible, and the truth is that you can actually have a wart that's not necessarily visible to the human eye, and not necessarily raised; they can be flat, they can come in different shapes. One way to diagnose HPV is that a provider will put a solution of vinegar on your genitals, and it'll bubble around the warts, so you can see them. So a big myth is that you can absolutely tell and see warts on somebody if they have HPV: that's just not true. Another myth around HPV is that if you get the vaccine that you can't transmit it. There is an HPV vaccine that's available for both men and women; getting vaccinated will help prevent HPV, but it only prevents specific strains of HPV, and those happen to be the ones that live most comfortably in the genitals. So in closing, there are several myths about HPV, and they tend to involve when it's transmissible, and whether or not you can tell if someone has them. The truth is, it is transmissible even if you can't see it, and you can't always tell that someone has it.

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