We live in a time where every second individual regards themselves as a flagbearer of justice, individuality, women’s rights, and well the list goes on, however there’s still something we aren’t quite as vocal about. Wondering what that is? Here’s a little backstory from my lens; I’m a millennial (A person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century, simply put, anyone in the age group of 25-40.)
I’m in my 20s, and I can safely say that I’ve witnessed India grow with every passing day. As a content creator, I’m biased toward the boom of digitization, and why shouldn’t I be? People from my generation have created quite a positive stir by voicing their opinions on the internet, or by sharing a certain post on social media that brought a smile on people’s faces.
As I grow older, I’m witnessing another generation – Gen Z, which is a step ahead of my generation with their forward approach in their thought process. They are vocal about things that probably my peers and I shield away from. They acknowledge and accept the fact that talking about sex isn’t a taboo and I’m all for it.
Though here comes the “BUT”. While we’ve collectively become more open when speaking of sex, we’re still a few solid conversations away from addressing the importance of seeing a gynaecologist and asking them the right questions, which may seem a little uncomfortable at first, but are necessary.
1. What are the preventive measures before becoming sexually active?
Before becoming sexually active, most of us rely on the information lent to us by our friends, instead of meeting a gynaecologist to discuss and know all that is to know. Did you know that it is doctor recommended to take the HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccination before becoming sexually active?
Before we get into the details, here’s an introduction to HPV. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection. 1 Nearly all sexually active people are infected with HPV within months to a few years of becoming sexually active.
2. Am I at risk for HPV?
If you’re a sexually active individual, you are at risk of contracting HPV through vaginal, anal, or oral sex from someone who has the virus. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. One can develop symptoms years after having sex with someone infected. This makes it hard to know when you first contracted the infection. 1
HPV spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact and includes vaginal, oral, or anal sexual activity. 3 It can spread through any kind of sexual activity such as oral sex or deep kissing. 4
3. Are there any symptoms I should watch out for?
HPV infection typically does not show any symptoms. Symptoms might appear once the infection has progressed to a disease or precancer stage. If you notice a growth in your vagina or around the labia, it can be worrisome. Do not panic at first, examine whether it’s an ingrown hair, a pimple, a possible cut from shaving, or perhaps something more concerning. It is a good idea to let your doctor examine it to decide whether it is a genital wart.
4. What are the effects of contracting HPV?
There are over 100 types of HPV. Out of these, typically, HPV can be categorized as high-risk HPV, i.e. the cancer-causing virus, or low-risk HPV i.e. non-cancer causing.7 At least 14 of the 100 types are high-risk types. 7
Most HPV infections clear out on their own. However, in women, if the Human Papillomavirus doesn’t always go away on its own, it may result in the growth of abnormal cells in the cervix. If left untreated, these cells may develop into cervical cancer. 7Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.
HPV is the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer in India. 5 6 And cervical cancer is the second most common and frequently occurring cancer in Indian women!
Apart from cervical cancer, HPV can cause other cancers as well including cancer of the vulva and vagina. Some strains of HPV can also cause genital warts.8 Every 5 minutes, one individual in India loses their life to HPV-related cancer. 5
5. Is there a treatment for HPV?
While there is no treatment for HPV infection, a preventative vaccine goes a long way. Other ways of staying protected is through safe sex, wearing a condom and using a dental dam. Regular screening also helps.
The next time, you and your gang of friends engage in a discussion about sex, it’s time to encourage them to visit the gynecologist and ask the right questions to take the necessary steps towards HPV prevention.
Know about HPV and its prevention here: https://knowmorehpv.com/
Issued in public interest with MSD India.
1. National Health Portal,
https://www.nhp.gov.in/disease/communicable-disease/human-papillomavirus-hpv-infection-and-cervical-cancer, accessed on 5 March 2016
2. National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/aboutcancer/causesprevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-and-cancer OCT 2021
3. American cancer society
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/infectioushttps://www.cancer.org/cancer/ca cancer-causes/infectious-agents/HPV/HPV-and HPV-testing.htmlagents/hpv/hpv-and-HPV-testing.html 26 October, 2021 accessed on 2 March 2022
4. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
Accessed on March 2022
5. Walboomers JM, Jacobs MV, Manos MM, et al. Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cervical cancer worldwide. J Pathol. 1999 Sep;189(1):12-19 https://hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/IND_FS.pdf
6. HPV Center https://hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/IND_FS.pdf
Accessed on March 2022
7. World Health Organisation. Factsheet. Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
https://www.w-ho.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/human-papillomavirus-(HPV)-and cervical cancer Accessed on 3 March 2021
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm Accessed on Oct 2020