Alberta Health Services
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause genital warts. An HPV infection will often go away on its own. Some people get a long-term infection. This can lead to cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, or throat. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers.
Learn more about HPV and cervical cancer.
HPV is very common. Anyone can get it, even if you have had only 1 sexual partner. Without getting immunized, most people who are sexually active will get an HPV infection at some time.
The risk of getting HPV is highest soon after becoming sexually active.
HPV spreads by sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. If you are pregnant and have HPV, you can spread it to your baby during vaginal childbirth.
HPV can be spread even if you have no symptoms or you can’t see any warts.
Many people with HPV don’t have symptoms. Anal and genital warts may be the only sign that someone has HPV. Genital or anal warts may look like tiny bumps or clustered growths on the skin (often a cauliflower-like texture).
The diseases that HPV infections cause, like cancer, develop over time and can have different symptoms.
There is no treatment for an HPV infection, but some health problems and symptoms caused by HPV infections can be managed through treatment. For example, genital warts can be treated in a doctor’s office or STI clinic. Do not use over-the-counter wart treatments for genital warts.
There is a link between HPV and cervical cancer, so regular Pap tests are important. A Pap test is when a doctor checks your cervix and takes a tissue sample to check for signs of cancer.
The HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all of the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, so it’s important to continue getting regular Pap tests, even if you get the HPV vaccine.
Learn more about screening for cervical cancer.
The HPV-9 vaccine protects against 9 strains (types) of human papillomavirus. These 9 strains may cause up to:
If you are unsure about getting the HPV vaccine for yourself or your child, try the HPV Vaccine Decision Tool. The tool asks about any questions or concerns you have about the vaccine and provides you with the information you need to reach a decision that you are comfortable with.
The HPV vaccine works best in children and teens before they have any sexual contact (such as oral sex or intercourse).
Getting the HPV vaccine does not encourage earlier sexual activity or more sexual activity. Research has found that there is no difference in unsafe sexual behaviour, rates of sexually transmitted infections, or rates of pregnancy among those who were immunized, compared to those who were not.
For more information about talking to your child about sexual health visit teachingsexualhealth.ca.
Grade 6 students and Grade 9 students can get the HPV vaccine in school. Parents and guardians will get information about HPV and the vaccine. If you want your child to get the vaccine in school, you must fill out the consent form and return it to the school.
If your child attends a school that doesn’t include the HPV vaccine as part of the school immunization program, you can book your child to get the vaccine by calling your local public health or community health centre.
Learn more about where to get the HPV vaccine.
In addition to getting the HPV vaccine, you can prevent the spread of HPV by practicing safer sex. If you have genital warts, tell your partner or partners so you can make choices to lower the risk of spreading HPV.
Learn more about HPV and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs).