In the past decade, HPV has become the focus of a lot of attention, and as is typically the case, this increased awareness of the disease has led to a fair amount of misinformation about it. These five myths aren’t the only wrong things you’ll hear about HPV, but they are the most prevalent and in need of correcting.
- "Only women get HPV."
While we typically associate HPV with young women, the fact is that men and older women are just as likely to contract the disease. When HPV is sexually transmitted, it can affect a man’s genitals just like a woman’s; however, there is currently no diagnostic test that can accurately identify the disease in a man—which is likely the reason this myth began.
- "Condoms eliminate any risk of HPV."
While there is no doubt that wearing a condom can reduce you or your partner’s risk of contracting HPV, it is not as effective at preventing it as it is with other STIs. HPV can spread through skin contact with the genital area, including skin that is not covered by a condom.
- "HPV is a rare disease."
It’s estimated that at least 80% of all sexually active men and women will contract HPV at some point in their lives. Thankfully, most of these cases never present symptoms, and the body’s immune system rids itself of the disease one to two years after infection.
- "The HPV vaccine can cause unwanted and serious side effects."
There has been speculation that the HPV vaccine is dangerous and can possibly cause mental disabilities. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to support such a claim, although this should not discourage people from protecting themselves against this potentially-fatal condition.
- "HPV can be cured."
Unlike other STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which are bacterial infections, HPV is a virus—meaning there is no cure for it. This means that being vaccinated is the best line of defense against HPV. Fortunately, the human body does a good job of suppressing the to undetectable levels in most cases.