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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection. Almost everyone gets HPV at some point in their life. Often the body gets rid of HPV on its own and you never know you were infected. You can also be infected with more than one type of HPV at a time and more than once during your lifetime.

Although there are over 100 different strains of HPV, only some of them cause disease such as cervical cancer or genital warts.

There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems.

Cure

There is no cure for HPV infection, but immunization can prevent infection by the most common types of HPV.

HPV infection causes

  • genital warts
  • cervical cancer
    • in Yukon one or two cases of invasive cervical cancer are diagnosed each year
    • in Canada, on average, one woman dies every day from cervical cancer 
  • other, less common but serious cancers, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils)

Ten per cent of women with HPV infection will need to be treated for genital warts, abnormalities of the cervix, or cervical cancer. In Yukon, over 200 procedures were done in 2011 for abnormal changes in the cervix caused by HPV.

How common is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Canada and across the world.

Without immunization, seven out of 10 individuals will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

Is HPV infection a new disease?

No.

HPV infection has been around for a long time.

However, only in the last few years have we learned the importance of HPV as a cause of cervical cancer and clearly established the relationship between HPV infection and cervical cancer.

How do you get HVP?

HPV is a common virus passed easily through skin-to-skin sexual contact (this includes all forms of touching as well as intercourse) with a partner of either gender.

Anyone who has any kind of sexual contact can get HPV; risk of infection occurs when sexual activity begins.

Because HPV infection is so common, even individuals who have minimal sexual activity are at risk. Many people acquire HPV infection from their first sexual partner.

How can you protect yourself against HPV?

If you have sex, you are at risk for HPV. Immunization is the best protection from the most common types of HPV. HPV immunization will greatly reduce your risk of cervical cancer.

Immunization

Immunization provides the best protection against HPV infection and its complications, including genital warts and cervical cancer. To be most effective, it’s better to give the immunization before the first sexual contact. Younger girls are less likely to be sexually active and their immune system is very strong, ensuring that the immunization is as effective as possible. This is why the HPV immunization program is recommended as part of the routine immunization schedule for all Yukon girls in Grade 6.

Immunization won’t cure an existing HPV infection but it will prevent other types of HPV. It may even protect partially against different strains not in the vaccine.

HPV immunization is 98 per cent effective against the two most common-cancer causing strains, HPV 16 and 18, which cause 70 per cent of these cancers. Most reactions to the immunization are minimal, don’t interfere with daily activities, and last for only a few days. Common reactions to the immunization are soreness, redness and swelling in the arm where the shot was given, headache and fever. The benefits of preventing cancer and other complications significantly outweigh these common reactions.

Currently, the publicly-funded HPV immunization program in Yukon is available to girls and women aged 9 through 26 who received the first dose of this immunization series before April 1st, 2012.

As of April 1st, 2013, the publicly-funded HPV immunization will be available to:

  • girls 9 years old, up to and including girls in Grade 6 (usually ages 11-12); and
  • girls in Grades 7, through to 18 years of age who received the first dose of this immunization series before April 1, 2013.

Girls and women who aren’t eligible for the publicly-funded HPV immunization currently or in the future can still receive the HPV immunization, at cost, at all Yukon health centres. The cost is $333.00 for the series of three shots.

Other ways you can protect yourself from cervical cancer include:

Having regular Pap tests
Having regular Pap tests is the only way to detect changes to the cervix before they become cancerous. Talk to your health care provider to know how often you should be having a Pap test.

Not smoking
If you smoke, you are about twice as likely to develop cervical cancer. If you stop smoking now, you can significantly decrease your risk of cervical cancer.

Practicing safer sex
Condoms are a good way to protect yourself from many kinds of sexually transmitted infections. Use them consistently. But when it comes to HPV, a condom can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, but doesn’t provide full protection. HPV infection can be passed on to others from areas not coved by the condom.

Is there a publically funded immunization program for boys?

In January 2012, the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations recommended immunization for boys and men aged 9 to 26. While immunization for boys is not publicly funded in Yukon, boys and men aged 9 through 26 can still receive the HPV immunization, at cost, at all Yukon health centres. The cost is $333.00 for the series of three shots.

HPV information on the web

Documents

Contact info

Yukon Communicable Disease Control

Sexually transmitted infections confidential testing
Monday to Friday
Appointments – 8:30am to noon
Drop-in – 12:30pm to 4:00pm

TB testing by appointment

Phone: 867-667-8323

Toll Free (Yukon, Nunavut and NWT); 1-800-661-0408 ext. 8323

Fax: 867-667-8349

Mailing Address:

Yukon Communicable Disease Control (4 HospRd)
Health & Social Services, Government of Yukon
Box 2703
Whitehorse, Yukon  Y1A 2C6

Location: 4 Hospital Road | Whitehorse, YT [map]

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