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    STD 7

    I moped around for more than a month after breaking up with my girlfriend. Just when I started feeling like seeing other women again, I noticed this cluster of moist little sacs of flesh near my vagina. Since then it got a bit bigger and turned whitish. It looks like a little cauliflower! I'm very embarrassed. How can I ever have sex with anybody ever again?

    Answer:

    The virus that causes genital warts spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact. It's called human papillomavirus, or HPV. There are several different kinds of HPV. Some kinds are linked to cervical cancer, although these HPV strains are less likely to cause warts.

    Genital warts appear one to six months after HPV infection. There's no cure, but there are treatments. These treatments must be performed or prescribed by a doctor. DO NOT use over-the-counter wart remedies on genital warts. While treatment can make warts go away, they often come back.

    It's common to be upset by genital warts. You should avoid sex until all warts are removed. Condoms can prevent HPV spread, but since they do not cover all of the skin that might be affected, they are not totally effective. Having genital warts does not mean your sex life is over.

    Although there is no treatment for HPV infection, most people eventually clear the virus on their own -- usually within two years. If you have HPV infection, it's especially important to see your doctor for regular Pap tests to look for cell changes on your cervix that could develop into cancer.

    There is an HPV vaccine for women. It will not cure HPV infection or speed clearance of the virus. But it will protect against the strains of the virus that most often cause cancer. The vaccine does the most good before a person becomes sexually active. That's why it's recommended for girls aged 11 to 12 -- and why it can be given as early as age 9.

    STD 8

    My girlfriend has a few little red bumps around her vulva, but they don't bother her and they didn't stop us from having sex. We use condoms -- but a few weeks back, a few of the same kind of bumps popped up on my groin. Now it's spread to my thighs. The area is a little tender, but it doesn't bother me all that much. I keep waiting for it to go away. Will it?

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