Human papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a group of over 100 viruses. HPV can cause warts, genital warts and cancer.
Clinically reviewed by:
Dr Mataroria Lyndon on 8.8.2021


  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a group of over 100 strains of viruses.
  • In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. Some strains are harmless, causing warts on hands and legs. Other strains can cause genital warts. The most serious strains can cause cancer.
  • HPV is most commonly spread through sexual contact.
  • Many people who are infected with the virus, don’t know they have it because they don’t have any symptoms. Symptoms only begin once the virus has manifested into an illness, like warts or cancer.
  • Cervical screening checks for the presence of HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. HPV testing is now available for easy screening.
  • The HPV vaccine is the best protection against many of the cancerous strains of the virus.

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  • HPV has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it.
  • When a strain of the virus causes an illness like cancer or warts, those illnesses will have their own set of symptoms.
  • Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat or genital area. They're easy to catch.
  • You can get HPV from; any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, vaginal, anal or oral sex, sharing sex toys.


  • There isn’t currently a treatment for HPV, only a vaccine to prevent it.
  • Illnesses caused by HPV, such as cancer or warts, have different treatment options available.
Proactive prevention of HPV
  • The HPV vaccine is the best form of protection against 9 of the most common strains. These strains cause most cases of cancer and nearly all genital warts.
  • The vaccine is free for people aged 9–26 years old and is recommended for kids aged 11–12 years old. In other situations, clinicians may recommend a course of HPV vaccines for individuals aged 27 years or older but the person will need to pay for the vaccine. People aged 27 and older who may benefit include; Those with little previous exposure to HPV, Men who have sex with men, Those with HIV infection
  • The vaccine doesn’t treat HPV, it only prevents it. That’s why it’s best if people receive the vaccine before they become sexually active, as they won’t have been exposed to the virus yet.
  • Kids aged 9–14 years old receive the vaccine in 2 doses, 5 or more months apart. People in this age bracket will develop a stronger immune response than those who are vaccinated when they’re older.
  • People who are 15 years or older need 3 doses of the vaccine over 6 months.
  • It normally takes 7 weeks for a person to develop antibodies after receiving the HPV vaccination.
  • The HPV vaccine isn’t suitable for; People who are severely allergic to yeast, Pregnant people – it’s recommended that they wait until after they’ve given birth, People who have a fever or are sick – it’s recommended that they wait until they’re feeling better.
  • The next best form of protection against HPV is latex condoms.

Should I see a doctor?

  • Cervical screening checks for the presence of HPV, which can cause cervical cancer. If a person has a cervix and has ever had sex (of any kind), it is important to have regular cervical screening, this includes trans and gender diverse people. HPV testing is now available for easy screening.
  • If HPV test has a negative result, your next test should be in 5 years.
  • A positive result doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. Your doctor or nurse will inform you of the next steps. You may need to have further testing done.
  • If you develop warts on your hands or legs, a health professional  can freeze these off for you if you like. Otherwise, they will probably disappear on their own within a couple of years.
  • If you develop genital warts, see a doctor.
Need to talk to a Tend doctor about HPV?

If you have HPV symptoms and would like medical advice without needing to leave the house, you can book an online appointment with a Tend doctor through your app.

After the appointment, your doctor may advise that an additional, in-person appointment is required, to ensure you receive complete care. In some cases, we may require this before administering a prescription.

If this is the case, we'll book you for an in-person appointment at a time that suits you, at no extra charge.

How long does HPV last?

  • Most people’s immune system will clear  an HPV infection within two years.
  • When that infection becomes more persistent, it may develop into an illness, like warts or cancer.
  • Illnesses caused by HPV can be managed with treatment and in some cases cured. The timing of this will vary depending on the type of illness and its severity.