By the age of 25, half of allsexually activepeoplewill have contracteda sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, many will not know itbecause STIs donot necessarily cause symptoms. If you think this is alarming, take a look at the human papillomavirus (HPV) specifically, which is the most common STIin the United States. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives [1]. Around 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and almost 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. Because a person infected with HPV may not exhibit signs or symptoms, it is hard to know when a person first becomes infected.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendsthatall 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of the HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. However, fewer than half of teenage girls andonlyone-fourth of boys have received a full dose of the HPV vaccine. All other recommended vaccines for the age group have 80 percent to 90 percent coverage rates [2]. It comes as no surprise thenthat HPV has alarmingly high rates of infection.


HPV can cause cervical and other cancers,including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). Each year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cases of cancerin men and women. Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person contracts HPV. HPV may also cause genital warts, but the typesofHPV that cause this arenot the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancer[1].


For men, there is no direct test forHPV,andthere is no approved HPV test for findingHPV in the mouth or throat. There are HPV tests for women that can be used to screen for cervical cancer. However, these tests are recommendedonly for screening women aged 30 years and older. HPV tests are not recommended formen, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years [1].


Considering how prevalent HPV is, and how difficult it is to detect, vaccinating against HPV is key. The HPV vaccine is safe and effectiveand can protect against diseases (including cancer) caused by HPV.


You can mitigate your risk of getting HPV by using latex condoms correctlyevery time you have sex. Take a look at Campus Health Center’s FAQ on sexual health, condom use, and our very affordable Condom Club [3]. Using condoms can lower your chances of getting HPV, but with that being said,condoms may not fully protect against HPV because it can infect areas not covered by a condom.


Healthy Campus 2020, which provides baseline numbers and goals for various health objectives on college campuses, has a topic area devoted specifically to boosting HPV immunization:


Objective IID-8b: Increase the proportion of students who report receiving human papillomavirus/HPV vaccine.


At baseline in 2010, campus vaccination coverage for this objective was anywhere from 33.2–53.1% nationally. The goal for 2020 is to boost this to the 36.5–58.4% range [5].


The Campus Health Center recommends the HPV vaccine for women and men through age 26. Every student at WSU—whether they are an undergraduate or graduate studentat main campus, a satellite campus, or online only—can come in to receive an HPV vaccination,along withother vaccinations. Campus Health Center carries Gardasil-9,which protects against nine different strains of the HPV virus.


If you don’t have insurance, there is a way to get the HPV and other vaccines at a discounted rate. Call us at 313-577-5041 to learn more. You can make an appointment Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. by calling Campus Health at 313-577-5041. Check out for more information.




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