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HPV/Genital Warts Health Center

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Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus) - Prevention

You can reduce your risk of becoming infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) or another sexually transmitted infection (STI). You also can reduce the risk of spreading HPV to your sex partner(s).

Practice safer sex

Preventing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is easier than treating an infection after it occurs.

  • Talk with your partner about STIs before beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an STI. Remember that it is possible to be infected with an STI without knowing it. Some STIs, such as HIV infection, may be in your blood for 3 to 6 months before they can be detected.
  • Be responsible.
    • Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
    • Avoid sexual contact with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an STI.
  • Having several sex partners increases your risk of getting an STI.

Male condom use

Condom use can reduce the risk of becoming infected with HPV. You can reduce the risk of infection if you use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms must be put on before beginning any sexual contact.

Female condom use

Even if you are using another birth control method, you may wish to use condoms to reduce your risk of getting an STI. Female condoms may lower the risk of HPV infection of the cervix, but they do not cover all of the vulva. These condoms are more effective at lowering the risk for other STIs.

Vaccines

If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV shot. The vaccines Cervarix(What is a PDF document?) and Gardasil(What is a PDF document?) protect against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts. Three shots are given over 6 months. It is recommended for children age 11 or 12, but can be given as early as age 9. For girls who have not already gotten the vaccine, it is recommended up to age 26. For boys who have not already gotten the shot, the vaccine is recommended up to age 21. Gardasil is used for males. Females can get either vaccine.

HPV: Should My Child Get the Vaccine?
HPV: Should I Get the Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is not useful for treating women who already are infected with HPV.4 But it may protect a woman against types of the HPV virus other than the one causing her infection.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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