Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection that is passed on by sexual contact. It is likely that most of us who have ever been sexually active have had HPV at some time in our life although we may not have known.
HPV is not a single virus but a family of more than 100 types of HPV that affect the body. Approximately 40 types of HPV affect the genital area.
It is some of these types that can cause changes to the cells in the cervix and that can lead to cervical cancer.
If you have an abnormal smear test it is a sign that you have probably been exposed to HPV.Some smear test samples are now tested for high-risk types of HPV.
There is no cure for HPV—it is best to take steps to prevent it. Young women can prevent certain types of HPV infection by being vaccinated. You can decrease your risk of infection by avoiding contact with the virus. To lower your chance of infection:
Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have the greater your risk of infection.
Use condoms to reduce your risk of infection when you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Condoms also help protect against other STDs.