The most common sexually transmitted infection is human papillomavirus (Boda et al., 2018). There are over 150 known strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), with approximately 40 known strains that can be passed through sexual activity (Markowitz et al., 2014). HPV has been associated with cervical cancer, penile cancer, anogenital cancer, vulvovaginal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and genital warts in both males and female (Markowitz et al., 2014). Studies have shown that women are two times more likely to develop HPV infection than men, with the highest risk of acquiring HPV after becoming sexually active (Boda et al., 2018). More than half of new HPV infections occur in individuals 15 to 24 years of age (Markowitz et al., 2014).
It is estimated that the majority of sexually active individuals contract at least one strain of HPV in their lifetime (Boda et al., 2018). Fortunately, approximately 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the immune system within one to two years of infection (Boda et al., 2018). Treatment for HPV is primarily aimed at prevention (Markowitz et al., 2014). HPV vaccines are available for males and females ages 9 through 26 (Markowitz et al., 2014). It is highly encouraged that males and females begin the vaccine series between the ages of 11 and 12 (Markowitz et al., 2014). Also, safe sexual practices are promoted for prevention, including abstaining from sex, condom use, and/or limiting the number of sexual partners (Markowitz et al., 2014). Other than prevention, there is no treatment for HPV infections (Markowitz et al., 2014). HPV associated lesions can be treated through various modalities, such as laser or electrosurgical procedures (Markowitz et al., 2014).
Detection and monitoring for HPV is primarily done through cervical cytology (Markowitz et al., 2014). Current guidelines recommend that cervical cancer screening begin at age 21 and be performed every 3 years until the age of 29 (Markowitz et al., 2014). If abnormal cells are detected, additional testing for HPV may be performed (Markowitz et al., 2014). Routine HPV testing can be performed alongside a pap smear every 5 years for women between the ages of 30 and 65 or women may choose to continue regular pap smears every 3 years (Markowitz et al., 2014). Women that have an abnormal pap smear should be tested more frequently, often every 12 months (Markowitz et al., 2014). Women that test positive for HPV 16 or 18 should be sent for a colposcopy according to current guidelines (Markowitz et al., 2014).
Boda, D., Docea, A. O., Calina, D., Ilie, M. A., Caruntu, C., Zurac, S., … Tsatsakis, A. M. (2018). Human papilloma virus: Apprehending the link with carcinogenesis and unveiling new research avenues. International Journal of Oncology, 52(3), 637-655. https://dx.doi.org/10.3892%2Fijo.2018.4256
Markowitz, L., Dunne, E., Saraiya, M., Chesson, H., Curtis, C., Gee, J., … Unger, E. (2014). Human papillomavirus vaccination: Recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(1), 1-30. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6305a1.htm