Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a viral infection caused by the human papillomavirus. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worldwide. According to the WHO, 570,000 women and 60,000 men are infected worldwide with sub-Saharan Africa, hosting the highest prevalence of 26%. Nearly half of the cases occur in the age range of 15 to 24 years. Findings from current studies have shown conclusively that the human papillomavirus is the most common germ responsible for female cancers. 

HPV can be transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

HPV infection can be categorized into low-risk and high-risk types. Low-risk HPV types, accounting for 31% of cases, can cause genital warts, which are small fleshy bumps or clusters of bumps in the genital area. These warts may be uncomfortable but are typically not cancerous. 

High-risk HPV types, accounting for 21% of cases, are more concerning as they have been linked to various types of cancers, including cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar, and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers.

Many individuals infected with HPV do not experience any symptoms and may unknowingly transmit the virus. In some cases, the infection can clear on its own without causing any complications. However, in other cases, HPV infections can persist and lead to abnormal cell changes that may progress to cancer over time.

Prevention and early detection are essential in combating HPV infection. Vaccines are available to protect against several high-risk HPV types and can prevent most cases of cervical cancer.

Regular screening, such as Pap smears or HPV testing, is recommended for early detection of any abnormal cell changes.

An individual who suspects HPV infection or has concerns about sexual health must consult with a healthcare professional for diagnosis, guidance, and appropriate treatment options.

Dr. Yeibake Weriwoyingipre Silver

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