Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and HPV Vaccine
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world. There are several types of HPV. Some types can cause warts, and many can lead to certain cancers later in life, such as cervical, anal, penile, throat, and vaginal or vulvar cancers. The HPV vaccine can protect you from HPV and HPV-related cancers and diseases in the future.
How does someone get HPV?
HPV can be passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact that occurs during sexual activity. Most people who have HPV have no symptoms but can still pass the infection to their sexual partners. Many people are exposed to HPV but not everyone who is infected develops symptoms.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Most people never get symptoms, but they still carry the virus and can infect their sexual partner(s). Symptoms may not appear for months after exposure to the virus.
- If genital warts are visible they may be small, cauliflower-like bumps, alone or in clusters. They can be on the vulva (vaginal lips), the cervix (entrance to uterus), anus, or thighs.
- Persistent HPV infection with high risk types is the main cause of cervical cancers and can lead to the development of many other types of cancer.
How can I protect myself from HPV?
- Get immunized! If you did not receive the HPV vaccine as part of your Grade 7 Immunization Program, contact your health care provider to inquire about getting the vaccine. You may be eligible for free vaccine.
- Practice safe sexual practices, including using a condom or dental dam every time you have sex.
Why should I get the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is the only vaccine in the world that can reduce your risk of cancer!
An estimated 75% of sexually active Canadians will have one HPV infection in their lifetime. Getting vaccinated against HPV can help reduce your risk of contracting the virus as well as protect you against HPV-related cancers and diseases in the future.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the world. It is spread by:
- any intimate skin-to-skin contact with the genital area of an infected person
- vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person
- sharing sex toys with an infected person.
Most people with the virus never experience any symptoms, but they still carry the virus and can infect their sexual partner(s).
There are more than 200 HPV viruses, some of which may cause the common wart you may get on your finger or foot, while others can cause warts on your penis, vagina, and anus which may require treatment. The most serious issue with an HPV infection is that it can lead to certain cancers later in life, such as cervical, anal, and vaginal or vulvar cancers.
In Canada, HPV vaccination is recommended for females aged 9 to 45 and for males aged 9 to 26. For best protection from the vaccine, it should be given before someone becomes sexually active.
Where can I get the vaccine?
HPV vaccine(s) are publicly funded through the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care for all students beginning in grade 7 as well as certain high-risk groups. It can also be purchased privately with a prescription and may be covered through private insurance.
- The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) offers the HPV vaccine beginning in Grade 7. Learn more about the Grade 7 Immunization Program. Students remain eligible publicly funded vaccine until the end of high school.
- Men who have sex with men (age 9 to 26 years) are eligible for free vaccine under the high-risk program. Ask your health care provider or call the MLHU.
- Adults who do not meet eligibility criteria and who have not received the HPV vaccine previously can purchase a prescription for the HPV vaccine (Gardasil® 9) by contacting their health care provider. Coverage for HPV vaccine is available through many private insurance companies. Learn more →
For a limited time, the Ontario government is providing a three-dose series of the HPV vaccine (Gardasil® 9) for FREE to the individuals listed below (Regular cost approximately $600)
- Females born in 2002, 2003, and 2004
- Males born in 2004
- Men who have sex with men born in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996 (high-risk program)
NOTE: The three-dose series must be completed by August 2023 and Dec 31, 2023 under the high-risk program. To receive the HPV vaccine, speak with your health care provider.
When should I get tested?
- After your last partner, before every new partner.
- After unprotected sex, injection drug use, snorting or crack pipes.
If you have questions about the HPV vaccine or getting tested for HPV, please call the MLHU at 519-663-5317.
Last modified on: November 18, 2022