Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers. However, in most cases HPV goes away on its own before causing any health problems.
Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. Most types of HPV are not harmful to people. There are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas as well as the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not know that they are infected.
The same types of HPV that infect the genital areas can infect the mouth and throat. HPV found in the mouth and throat is called “oral HPV.” Some types of oral HPV (known as “high risk types”) can cause cancers of the head and neck area. Other types of oral HPV (known as “low risk types”) can cause warts in the mouth or throat. In most cases, HPV infections of all types go away before they cause any health problems.
Only a few studies have looked at how people get oral HPV, and some of these studies show conflicting results. Some studies suggest that oral HPV may be passed on during oral sex (from mouth-to-genital or mouth-to-anus contact) or open-mouthed ("French") kissing, others have not. The likelihood of getting HPV from kissing or having oral sex with someone who has HPV is not known. We do know that partners who have been together a long time tend to share genital HPV-meaning they both may have it. More research is needed to understand exactly how people get and give oral HPV infections.
At this time no studies have explored how oral HPV can be prevented. However, it is likely that condoms and dental dams, when used consistently and correctly, will lower the chances of giving or getting oral HPV during oral sex, since they serve as barriers, and can stop the transmission of HPV from person to person. More research is needed to understand how oral HPV is passed on, how it can be prevented, and who is most likely to develop health problems from an oral HPV infection.
This vaccine has been licensed by the FDA and approved by CDC as safe and effective. Studies have found no serious side effects. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm around the area where the shot is given.
To get the Gardasil vaccine, visit Health Services and see if you qualify for the free HPV vaccine in Room 2126 in the Campus Center, or call (650) 949-7243.