HPV Facts vs Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions
Slowly but surely, as young people open up to conversations around sexual health, HPV awareness is spreading. But along with this newfound awareness, come a slew of misconceptions. With some people still discounting it as a woman's concern, and others thinking it can be cured by natural remedies, there’s still some serious myth-busting to do. But before we get into it, what is HPV in the first place? And why should you care? Let’s take a look.
Uncovering Human Papillomavirus
HPV is an infection that spreads primarily through sexual contact. The virus often does not show any symptoms. Even in symptomatic cases, the symptoms may develop years after the first infection, which makes it hard to know when you first got infected.
HPV infection manifest in the form of genital warts, which look like small bumps or groups of bumps around the genitals. In serious cases, HPV can also lead to cancers, such as cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer. This link to cancer is what makes the infection so dangerous.
5 Common Myths About HPV
Even though HPV awareness is spreading, there are still a lot of misconceptions about this infection. These misconceptions can be dangerous, undermining the seriousness of the infection.
Let’s look at a few of these common myths, and the facts behind them.
1. The myth: Only promiscuous individuals get HPV
Most people associate infections like HPV with sexual promiscuity. But is there any truth in this sentiment?
The fact: The truth is, even sexually monogamous individuals can get HPV. Which means that if you are sexually active, you can get an HPV infection even if you have only had sex with one person. This makes prevention measures equally important for everybody, irrespective of their sexual preferences.
2. The myth: If you get HPV, you will definitely get cancer
We know that HPV is linked to certain cancers, but does this mean every HPV infection leads to cancer?
The fact: Every HPV infection does not lead to cancer. In fact, there are over 200 types of HPV. Out of these 200+ types, 13 types have been shown to cause cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer. In an ideal case, the body’s immune system should be able to get rid of the HPV infection by itself. If this doesn’t happen, the infection may linger and cause abnormal cell changes, which may develop into cancer.
3. The myth: I’ll know if I have HPV
“I can’t have gotten HPV because I never had any symptoms.” Ever thought this to yourself?
The fact: Human papillomavirus infection often shows no visible symptoms, which means you may be infected without knowing it. Symptoms or no symptoms, 8 out of 10 sexually active adults will get an HPV infection in their lifetimes.
4. The myth: Men do not get HPV
A lot of people believe that HPV only affects women, but is this really true?
The fact: HPV affects both men and women. In fact, studies show that the transmission rate of HPV from women to men is greater than the transmission rate from men to women. Infection can put them at risk of developing certain HPV-related cancers including anal cancer.
5. The myth: Condoms can protect against HPV
“We don’t need to worry about HPV because we used a condom.” If you’ve ever heard this from your partner, it’s time to revisit your HPV knowledge.
The fact: While safe sexual practices are always important, HPV infection can spread despite using condoms. This is because a condom will only protect the covered areas, and infection may still spread from the unprotected areas.
We hope this helps clear up any misconceptions you might have had. When put in perspective, this commonly transmitted virus is a lot more harmful than you’d think. Thankfully, that’s what HPV vaccines are for, which can help protect against certain cancer-causing types of HPV.
However, just like HPV, vaccination is also shrouded by myths and wariness. Spreading HPV awareness is important to dispel these misconceptions and allow people to make informed decisions.
Disclaimer: HPV - Human Papillomavirus. This information is intended for awareness purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor.
*Image for representation purpose only
IN-GSL-00810 11/1/2024 - 19/12/2025