The Truth About HPV and How to Stay Safe

HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, can cause cervical cancer and other health issues. It often goes unnoticed by the body's defense system. Vaccination is key for prevention, though currently focused on girls. Extending it to boys could significantly reduce HPV's impact.

The Truth About HPV and How to Stay Safe
Safeguarding Your Health: Protective measures like condoms can help reduce the risk of HPV transmission.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. It is estimated that globally, up to 80 percent of the sexually active population could register contact with it at some point in their lives, as shown by figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This does not mean that everyone will have a catastrophic consequence that leads to death, or will present a health complication due to that cause. The majority of papillomaviruses are inactivated by themselves, the response of our immune system kicks in and eliminates a large part,” said the academic from the Faculty of Higher Studies (FES) Iztacala, UNAM, Juan Pablo García. Acosta.

When addressing the topic in an interview, the university student pointed out: according to the Epidemiological Bulletin of the Ministry of Health, in 2022, 16,525 cases were registered, both in men and women; while in 2023 the figure was approximately 15,900.

These data indicate the importance of the condition and its consequences because a part, especially those linked to viruses 16 and 18, are the most important as they are responsible for approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers, the most frequent, added the expert.

García Acosta explained that it is a DNA type virus belonging to the Papillomaviridae family; It has the capacity to generate infection both in the mucous membranes (considered high risk or oncogenic) and in the skin. More than 200 types have been identified, 40 of these can infect the genital and anal mucosa of men and women.

There are approximately 12 with clinical importance, among them 6 and 11 are most frequently associated with skin warts (condylomas, benign lesions), including the genital region, and the less frequent ones such as 31, 33, 45, 52, 58 cause about 20 percent of cervical dysplasias.

In addition, other types of neoplasms that affect men and women are anal, vulvar, vaginal, mouth, throat and penis cancer, he highlighted.

“Practically 99 percent of cases of cervical cancer that we find in clinic have a history of papillomavirus infection, hence the main relevance of visualizing this health problem,” García Acosta pointed out.

The doctor said that HPV can remain inactive in the body or in a latent phase in numerous instances; However, “it could be that the rest of life does not generate any problems.”

A notable aspect is that the majority of infected people do not have any symptoms or health issues. However, sometimes genital warts can occur.

The professor of Medicine at the FES Iztacala explained: although sexual is not the only route of transmission, it is the most frequent; In general terms, these infections are temporary and are not serious, since they can be spontaneously reduced by the body, in cases of low-risk lesions.


Since there is no effective treatment to reduce the prevalence of papillomavirus or eradicate it, we can mitigate its effects; However, the important thing is not only to attend to them, but to anticipate their presence. That is, medicine with a preventive nature; “Prevention must be the cornerstone in the fight against the papillomavirus,” he asserted.

García Acosta suggested that people who are sexually active should take the necessary care, such as using a condom (male or female), although it is not 100 percent effective, since any body surface can be the route of contagion or infection.

Currently, he noted, we have immunization aimed, mainly at girls from the age of nine, as one of the relevant measures that will allow them not to be infected by this type of microorganisms and, consequently, avoid developing cancer.

The vaccination program considers women as the target population, specifically those between nine and 11 years old, because the infection was initially associated with the cervix. However, currently we see cases of papillomavirus associated with cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx more frequently in men.

The university student estimated that women up to 26 years old could also receive the biological, since in the age range of 20 to 25 years – the maximum peak incidence of HPV infections – there is still a good protective response.

A good protection and prevention measure would be to extend vaccination to the male population in the same age range as them, as is happening in some European countries starting in 2023. The results are yet to be evaluated, but there will surely be a good response because it would also decrease the incidence of neoplasms in them, García Acosta added.