Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Three out of four sexually active people will get a HPV infection at some point in their lives. HPV can affect the throat, genital area and surrounding skin.

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Some types cause genital warts or cancer in the cervix, throat, anus or genital area.

How is HPV spread?

HPV is spread orally and through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.  

What are the symptoms of HPV?

Genital warts can be a symptom of HPV. Genital warts are soft bumps on and around the genital area that are usually painless, itchy and sometimes bleed. However, since most HPV infections do not cause genital warts, there are often no symptoms and people do not know they are infected.

What are the risks of HPV?

Every year in B.C. approximately:

  • 6,000 women will develop high risk pre-cancerous changes to the cervix
  • 175 women will get cervical cancer and 50 will die from the disease
  • 110 people will develop anal cancer and 20 will die from the disease
  • 5,500 people will develop genital warts

How do you prevent HPV?

Getting immunized is the best way to prevent HPV infection. HPV vaccines are safe. It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get HPV disease. When you get immunized you help to protect others as well. 

Gardasil9 (HPV 9) is the vaccine offered in B.C. and has replaced the HPV4 (Gardasil) that was used in B.C. programs from 2008 through 2016. 

This vaccine protects against 7 types of HPV that cause between 85-90 per cent of cervical cancers and anal cancers in women and about 84 per cent of anal cancers in men. 

Gardasil9 also protects against 2 types of HPV that cause about 90 per cent of cases of genital warts. 

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine gets the best immune response when given between the ages of 9 to 15.

HPV9 vaccine is recommended and provided free to:

  • Girls and boys in Grade 6
  • Females born in 1994 to 2005 who have not completed a series of HPV vaccine (up to age 26 - inclusive)
  • Males and females 9 to 26 years of age (inclusive) who are infected with HIV
  • Males 9 – 26 years of age (inclusive) who are at increased risk for HPV infection
  • Males 9 to 18 years of age in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)
  • Males in youth custody services centres 

The HPV9 vaccine is recommended, but not provided free for the following people:

  • Females 27 – 45 years of age
  • Males 9 – 26 years of age who do not meet criteria above
  • Men 27 years of age and older who have sex with men 

Grade 6 students are vaccinated by Public Health Nurses in the school setting. Anyone else eligible for the HPV vaccine can be immunized by making an appointment with your family doctor, pharmacist or Public Health. 

To book an immunization appointment with Public Health:

Residents of Fraser East (Mission, Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope), call 604-702-4906

Residents in any other area of Fraser Health, call 604-476-7087 

Those not eligible for a free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies, travel clinics and some sexual health clinics. 

Resources

For more information about HPV and HPV vaccines, go to:

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