HPV stands for human papilloma virus - it’s the name for a group of viruses that affect the skin and the moist membranes lining your body, including the cervix, anus, mouth and throat.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV, 30 of which can affect the genital area.
It is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK.
How is it spread?
HPV is highly contagious and spreads easily, usually through sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal or anal sex) or skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas.
Sometimes, HPV can be transmitted during birth too.
HPV infections can sometimes remain dormant and then later infect a new or existing sexual partner.
What are the symptoms and effects?
Most of the time, the body’s immune system defeats an HPV infection before symptoms appear, and often HPV infections are benign, causing nothing more than warts or verrucas.
Some forms of HPV lead to genital warts (the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in England), abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within your cervix – which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer, according to the NHS.
Most of the 100s of strands of HPV are harmless, however about 12 types can cause cancer, including cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and back of the throat (oropharyngeal).
Is there a cure?
Warts often disappear by themselves or you can take medication to get rid of them, but there’s no cure for HPV.
It’s best to see your GP if you have warts, as they will be able to prescribe the best course of treatment.
Seeing as there is no cure for HPV, prevention through the vaccine and practising safe sex are recommended by doctors.