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HPV, or human papilloma virus, is the most common STD in the United States, but myths about the infection still persist. These misconceptions can be dangerous, since some of the strains of HPV are known to cause cancer. If you are sexually active, talk to your gynecologist about STD testing , including testing for HPV. Here are some myths about the virus that could be affecting your health.

Doctor taking notes while a patient speaks

Myth: HPV is a woman’s disease.

HPV infections occur in both men and women. The difference is how the disease is diagnosed. In women, HPV can be detected during a Pap test. For men, no FDA-approved diagnostic test exists. Because both men and women are at risk for HPV, many doctors recommend that both groups consider getting vaccinated, when possible.

Myth: I would know if I had HPV.

Not all STDs cause symptoms, and most people with HPV don’t experience any signs of the virus at all. In some people, genital and anal warts caused by HPV appear, but the symptoms are so rare that you cannot be confident that you are free of HPV simply because you are not experiencing any signs. Likewise, you cannot look at a partner and know if he or she has HPV. The strains of HPV that cause warts tend to have lower cancer risks than the strains that don’t cause any signs at all. The only way to know for sure if you have HPV is to ask your gynecologist to perform a test.

Myth: I can’t get HPV if my partner uses a condom.

HPV can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so using a condom does not protect you from HPV. Because of the way HPV is transmitted, you can also contract it from having sexual contact without having intercourse. Condoms are essential for protecting you from other STDs, but HPV can be transmitted even if you have safe sex.

Your gynecologist in Washington, D.C. at Washington Surgi-Clinic can help you understand your risk for HPV and other STDs and recommend testing and STD treatment as needed. To make an appointment, please call (202) 659-9403.