HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus. Most people will have at least one type of HPV at some time in their lives.
You can be exposed to HPV the first-time sexual activity occurs and from only one sexual partner.
Most people won’t know they have HPV as it rarely has any symptoms.
HPV infects people of all genders and sexual preferences.
People in long-term relationships with one person or people who have not been sexually active for many years can still get HPV.
The virus is commonly spread through intimate contact with genital-skin during sexual activity through tiny breaks in the skin. HPV is not transmitted via blood or body fluids (e.g. semen).
Using condoms may offer some but not total protection from HPV, as they don't cover all the genital skin. They do however offer protection from many other sexually transmitted infections.
If you find out that you or your partner has HPV, it is important to remember that most sexually active people will have HPV at some time in their lives – it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
To learn more about HPV and sexual health, head to Sexual Health Victoria’s page about HPV.
HPV and genital warts
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection caused by HPV. They appear as small bumps on the genitals.
They are caused by the types of HPV that don’t cause cancer. Having genital warts does not mean you are at risk of cancer.
Genital warts used to be a very common sexually transmitted infection in Australia, especially in young people. But since the HPV vaccine was introduced in 2007, genital warts have become much less common.
In most cases, genital warts can be treated by your doctor.
Information for men who have sex with men
The HPV vaccine is recommended for men who have sex with men (MSM) of any age who have not received the vaccine. MSM have a higher risk of repeated and persistent HPV infection and associated diseases – such as genital warts and anal cancer – at all ages, regardless of HIV status or other immunocompromising conditions.
It’s always best to speak to your doctor to see if the HPV vaccine is recommended to you. The decision to have the vaccination should consider factors such as:
If you are aged 25 or under and are not immunocompromised, you will only require one dose of the HPV vaccine. If you have an immunocompromised condition or are aged 26 or over you will require three doses of the vaccine with an interval of two months between dose one and two, and four months between dose two and three.
If you are aged 26 and over, you will have to pay for the vaccine. If you have any questions talk to your doctor or immunisation provider.