Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). HPV is the virus that causes genital warts.
In addition to causing genital warts, an HPV infection can mean trouble for both girls and guys:
Both girls and guys can get HPV from sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Most people infected with HPV don't know they have it because they don't notice any signs or problems. People do not always develop genital warts, but the virus is still in their system and it could be causing damage. This means that people with HPV can pass the infection to others without knowing it.
Because HPV can cause problems like genital warts and some kinds of cancer, a vaccine is an important step in preventing infection and protecting against the spread of HPV.
That's why doctors recommend that all girls and guys get the vaccine at these ages:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the HPV vaccine as safe for both guys and girls ages 9 to 26 years old.
The HPV vaccine is given as three injections over a 6-month period. The vaccine does not protect people against strains of HPV that might have infected them before getting the vaccine. Being vaccinated before having sex for the first time is the most effective way to prevent HPV infection. But even if you have had sex, don't give up on getting the vaccine. It's still the best way to protect against strains of the virus that you may not have come in contact with.
The vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV. Anyone having sex should get routine checkups at a doctor's office or health clinic. Girls should get Pap smears when a doctor recommends it — usually around age 21 unless there are signs of a problem before that.
The HPV vaccine is not a replacement for using condoms to protect against other strains of HPV — and other STDs — when having sex.
Most of the side effects that people get from the HPV vaccine are minor. They may include swelling or pain at the site of the shot, or feeling faint after getting the vaccine. As with other vaccines, there is a small chance of an allergic reaction.
A few people have reported health problems after getting the shot. The FDA is monitoring the vaccine closely to make sure these are not caused by the vaccine itself.
Most people have no trouble with the vaccine. You can lessen your risk of fainting by sitting down for 15 minutes after each shot.
For people who are having sex, condoms offer some protection against HPV. Condoms can't completely prevent infections because hard-to-see warts can be outside the area covered by a condom, and the virus can infect people even when a partner doesn't have warts. Also, condoms can break.
The only way to be completely sure about preventing HPV infections and other STDs is not to have sex (abstinence).
Spermicidal foams, creams, and jellies have not been proven to protect against HPV or genital warts. If you have questions about the vaccine or are concerned about STDs, talk to your doctor.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014
|Planned Parenthood Info for Teens This site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has information on relationships and sexual health for teens.|
|American Social Health Association This nonprofit organization is dedicated to preventing sexually transmitted diseases and offers hotlines for prevention and control of STDs.|
|U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.|
|Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood offers information on sexually transmitted diseases, birth control methods, and other issues of sexual health.|
|CDC: Pre-teen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, pre-teens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|GYT - Get Yourself Talking and Get Yourself Tested This media campaign designed to get young people to talk with their health care providers and partners about the importance of getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases.|
|Do I Need a Pelvic Exam if I Had the HPV Vaccine? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Can You Still Get Genital Warts If You've Had All the Shots? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Genital Warts (HPV) You've probably heard lots about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. For information on how to protect yourself and how to treat genital warts, read this article.|
|Condom Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to find out how condoms work - and how well they protect against pregnancy and STDs.|
|Talking to Your Partner About Condoms Some people - even those who are having sex - are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. Here are some tips for talking about condoms with your partner.|
|Is the HPV Vaccine Always a Shot? I'm Scared of Needles! Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Do I Have to Get All Three HPV Vaccine Shots? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Can Getting the HPV Vaccine Help If I Already Have Genital Warts? Find out what the experts have to say.|
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