“She’s an independent woman,” said everyone. Growing up, I must have heard this statement a million times, it was typically associated with women who chose to wear their corporate suits and be an equal bread earner for the family, and for the longest time, this was my definition of independence too. But the older I grew, my rendezvous with women of substance from different walks of society and their representation in the movies broadened my horizon. 

While financial independence is an integral aspect of being an independent woman, it isn’t the only one. An independent woman celebrates different traits of independence. 

An independent woman can be found in Julia Child when she flaunted the spatula and spoon to make history, or when Alexis Rose exhibited emotional independence in Schitt’s Creek. 

And the ones that really stuck with me during my teen years have to be the badass ladies from Sex and The City. While on a lot of occasions they spoke primarily of men and relationships, they often highlighted the importance of sexual health, and that’s what I loved about them,

While they were financially independent, a fearless bunch of women in the big city, they also took ownership of looking after their sexual health. The show inspired me to take charge of all aspects of my life.

A modern-day woman looks after her sexual health with preventive measures

Strangely, sexual health is one of the most ignored factors. A chat with my girlfriends recently revealed that they were unaware of HPV (Human papillomavirus) which happens to be the most common sexually transmitted infection. If you’re wide-eyed and worried at this point, here’s a reason to relax, HPV is preventable, continue reading to find out everything you must know!

What is HPV? 

HPV is one of the most commonly transmitted sexual viruses, yet most sexually active individuals are unaware of it.

It is an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body, and some high-risk HPV types can lead to cancer. Almost all sexually active adults contract the infection within months or years of being active. As per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there were about 43 million HPV infections in 2018. In that same year, there were 13 million new infections. HPV is so common that almost every sexually active person will get HPV at some point.

Who can contract HPV?

One can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with 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 they have sex with only one person.

It spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity such as vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also spread through deep kissing.

Yet another channel of contracting the infection is by touching a wart or a surface that HPV has come into contact with, like a pool or shower.

The symptoms usually occur 2 to 3 months after infection. But have also been known to occur from 3 weeks to many years after infection.

What are the risks of HPV? 

There are over 100 types of HPV and they’re majorly categorized into two types – Oncogenic (Cancer Causing), and Non- Oncogenic (Non-Cancer Causing.) The former type is naturally a high-risk HPV. While the body’s immune system clears out most of the HPV types, at least 14 out of 100 are high-risk types.

Long-lasting infections with high-risk HPVs can cause cancer in parts of the body where HPV infects cells, such as in the cervix, anus, vagina, and vulva in women. 

By the age of 50, at least 4 out of every 5 women will have been infected with HPV at one point in their lives. In women, the Human Papillomavirus doesn’t go away on its own. This can cause the growth of abnormal cells to begin in the cervix. If left untreated, these cells may develop into cervical cancer. Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms.

Every 9 minutes, 1 woman loses her battle to Cervical Cancer in India.6 80% sexually active Men & women get infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime!

What is the treatment/precaution for HPV?

While there is no treatment for HPV, there is a preventive vaccine for HPV which immunizes you against different types of HPV.

I highly encourage that you seek an opinion from your doctor on HPV prevention – for both recommended age for vaccination and routine screening.

How can you learn more or educate someone?

If my experience has taught me something, it is that beyond all our conversations around first-world problems, and endless scrolling on Instagram (Okay, scrolling on Instagram must never end), we need to open up about the real issues and start conversations around STIs and STDs. If you know someone who could learn something from this post, don’t shy away from sharing it with them, and if you wish to learn more, then http://www.knowmorehpv.com/  is your place for the information you need. You can also consult the expert on the site to learn about HPV prevention.

P.S: In a world where women define being infinite, let’s not be limited by an STI, prevent HPV, and protect yourself against its risks. Until next time, #StayCurious 😊   

Issued in public interest by MSD . This information is for awareness only. Please consult your doctor for more information on HPV.

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