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How can I prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection?

Health experts advise women to use one or more of the following options to reduce contact with human papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact:
  • Use condoms whenever you are intimate with a new or casual sexual partner. Latex condoms, when used correctly and consistently from start to finish each time you have sex, can provide some protection if they cover the area of HPV infection. Note, however, that while condom use will decrease the risk of HPV infection, it can't prevent it entirely because HPV can infect cells anywhere on the skin in the genital area.
  • Be aware that spermicidal foams, creams or jellies are not effective against any sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HPV. The U.S. Food and Drug Adminitration (FDA) has advised consumers that using vaginal contraceptives containing nonoxynol-9 can increase vaginal irritation, which may increase the risk of infection.
  • If you're having oral sex, use a dental dam, plastic wrap or a split and flattened unlubricated condom. These materials provide a moisture barrier between the mouth and the vagina or anus during oral sex. Avoid brushing or flossing your teeth right before having oral sex, which may tear the lining of your mouth, increasing your exposure to viruses.
  • Be careful about sharing sexual toys. It's possible that HPV could be transmitted via sexual toys that are inserted in the vagina but aren't thoroughly cleaned before being used on your partner.
Dr. Diane Harper
Health Education Specialist

Be choosy about your sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you will get human papillomavirus (HPV). Condoms can prevent some HPV infections, but condoms do not prevent all infections. Condoms only cover one part of skin (the penis) that could be exposed to or transmitting HPV.

If you are a male, circumcision is the best way to prevent most sexually transmitted infections including HPV and HIV. 

Dr. Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Practitioner

Completely abstaining from oral, vaginal, and anal sex, as well as direct skin-to-skin genital contact, is the only way to be 100% sure to avoid contracting HPV.

Gardasil vaccine offers protection against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts, and types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers.

Condoms are thought to only moderately decrease transmission of HPV.

Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

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Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) can be prevented with an HPV vaccine called Gardasil (it is FDA-approved for ages nine to 26 as a primary prevention tool) and cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screenings and treatment of pre-invasive disease (secondary prevention). Cervical cancer is a slow-growing cancer and can be detected via a regular pap test, although many cases of cervical cancer occur in women who haven’t had a pap test in many years. This test helps detect precancerous cell changes, leading to early intervention and treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.