Confused about genital human papillomavirus? The condition, known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., causing six million new infections in sexually-active adults each year.
While most cases of HPV clear up on their own, some strains lead to genital warts or to cancer of the cervix, anus and penis -- among others. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer, causing an estimated 500,000 new cases and 275,000 deaths each year.
Although it is the most common STI and one that can, in rare instances, have dire consequences, there are many ways to reduce your individual risk for both the virus and the associated conditions it causes. Cervarix protects against cancer-associated strains, and Gardasil protects against both those and strains associated with genital warts, as well. And condom use and regular screening can further prevent infection.
Despite education efforts and media focus, many misconceptions about the disease pervade. So, to honor Cervical Health Awareness Month, we've compiled eight of the most common -- and most damaging -- misconceptions about the virus. You owe it to yourself and your future partners to read on:
Clarification: Language has been changed to specify the difference between the two vaccines. A previous reference to gonorrhea as a virus has also been changed; it is a bacteria