There are more than 200 types of HPV with different symptoms in each kind, which are commonly transmitted through sexual contact. They can be roughly divided into high-risk and low-risk types.
High-risk HPV: Infection with high-risk HPV (such as HPV16 and HPV18) has a chance of causing about 90% of cervical and anal cancers.
Low-risk HPV: Infection with low-risk HPV types (such as HPV6 and HPV11) has a chance of causing more than 90% of genital warts.
Most HPV infections are usually asymptomatic. The incubation period can be up to 10 years, and there is a chance of human-to-human transmission.
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How HPV affects women？
About 90% of cervical cancers are caused by persistent infection with certain types of HPV. Statistics show that the cure rate of early cervical cancer is as high as 90%. However, since early cervical cancer may have no symptoms, it is difficult to notice the problems.
How HPV affects men？
More than 90% of anal cancer and genital warts are caused by HPV. Infection with HPV increases the chance of men suffering from the above diseases. In Hong Kong, male patients of genital warts are 3.3 times more likely than females, and patients have a 75% chance of infecting their sexual partners. The risk of men infecting carcinogenic HPV to women is about five times higher than that of women infecting men. Carcinogenic HPV may induce Cervical Cancer in women.
According to the recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three steps to prevent HPV and its diseases:
- Ask your doctor about HPV prevention methods: Individuals before and after marriage, teenagers of the appropriate age should actively ask their doctors about HPV prevention information for themselves and their family members.
- Safe sex: Safe sex and maintaining a single partner can reduce the risk of HPV infection, but it does not guarantee 100% prevention.
- Regular checkups: Women shall undergo regular Pap smear screening, and women aged 25 or above or with sexual experience should begin to receive Pap smear screening. If the test results are normal for two consecutive years, you can take the test every three years.
The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in 2020, emphasising the importance of HPV prevention, and is committed to calling on countries to ensure that at least 90% of school-age girls are protected against HPV before the age of 15 by 2030. In Hong Kong, the government already included the HPV vaccine in the student's health plan. However, the programme only covers female students and has not been extended to male students. (Some countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, etc., provide HPV vaccination programs for boys and girls.)
Studies have pointed out that children aged 9-14 have a robust immune response when having the HPV vaccine.
In general, the HPV vaccine is safe, and most students will not have significant reactions to it. Common side effects are similar to other vaccines, including mild and short-term conditions like headache, dizziness, nausea, and tiredness. Pain or redness at the injection site.