Sex is the most talked about subject of the 21st Century. But unfortunately, there’s deathly silence on the inevitable hidden health risks. Breaking the silence, The New Zealand HPV Project, says 8 out of 10 New Zealanders will be affected by genital HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), a sexually transmitted infection (STI), at some point. Keen to dispel the myths surrounding the most common yet most invisible STI, the project is launching its new website – www.hpv.org.nz – a user-friendly, one-stop source of information and advice.
HPV recently hit international headlines with Hollywood star, Michael Douglas’, admission his throat cancer could be linked to contracting HPV through oral sex. The HPV Project hopes media exposure of the case will help reduce the stigma of HPV and empower New Zealanders to become better informed about the causes, treatment and prevention of HPV.
What do you know about HPV?
Claire Hurst, Project Coordinator for The New Zealand HPV Project says awareness of the virus is still shockingly low.
‘HPV is an invisible virus – most New Zealanders will contract it at some stage yet many won’t even know they are infected. The stigma associated with it means it’s also invisible in society – no one likes to talk about it. The new website is therefore an essential resource for the public plus the medical profession, providing up-to-date information on HPV, the links to cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine,’ explains Ms Hurst.
‘The single most important message is that cervical cancer can be prevented by HPV Vaccine and regular cervical smears,’ adds Ms Hurst.
Importantly, the website also provides information on the rapidly emerging knowledge surrounding the wider implications of HPV in throat cancers as well as the genital tract of women and men.
MYTH: You are unlikely to get genital HPV.
FACT: Most people will be infected by HPV at some point in their lives.
MYTH: You will know if you have HPV.
FACT: Most genital HPV is invisible so most people will not be aware they have it.
MYTH: Once you are infected with HPV you have it for life.
FACT: Most HPV is transient and goes away before causing health problems.
MYTH: HPV always leads to cancer.
FACT: For most people HPV will clear without causing significant health problems yet for some, it can cause abnormal cell changes which if undetected and untreated can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, penis and throat.
MYTH: There is no way to prevent HPV infection.
FACT: Preventive vaccines are now available, which provide protection from some of the most common genital HPV types, including genital warts. Vaccination prior to becoming sexually active is best and is currently available free to females aged between 12 and 20 years.
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