So all the recent conversations we’ve had here on genital warts and HPV motivated me to email a Dr friend to ask her for the lowdown on the virus and this is what she said:
Genital warts are caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) strains 6 and 11. Cervical cancer is caused mainly by strains 16 and 18. There are 2 cervical cancer jabs one can take to guard against HPV: Cervirax which protects only against 16 and 18 and Gardesil which protects against all four of those strains. So the first point is if you want to get a vaccination against HPV then you need to make sure you’re getting the right vaccination.
The vaccines prevent future infection from HPV, so if an idividual already has HPV then a vaccine will be ineffective. The rate of transmission is quite low from one off episodes of sex so one is more likely to get HPV infection from a long term relationship with an infected partner due to mulitiple exposures. That said the rate of HPV infection among sexually active people in their lates 20s to 30s has been reported as high as 70% so the likelihood is most of us already have it. THat’s why the vaccination programme is aimed at 12-13yr olds in the UK as it needs to be given before you become sexually active. Once you are sexually active, the most important things are to use barrier methods (which only slighly reduce transmission rates because they do not cover the whole anogenital tract) and to have regular cervical smears.
Someone who has had sex with a person who has genital warts will not know for quite some time if they have the wart virus from the person or some other guy as it can take weeks or years for people with the virus to develop warts. Some people just carry the virus and never get warts and others clear the virus.