The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very widespread virus. In fact it is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world. Eight out of ten sexually active people will have at least one of the HPV genotypes that infect the anogenital area over the course of their lives.
HPV is transmitted during sexual relations. However, penetration is not required for transmission to occur, as the virus will spread through skin-to-skin contact. HPV particularly infects the vagina, the penis, and the anus, but also the surface of the skin, mucous membrane in the mouth, the tongue, throat and tonsils. Thus, although properly used condoms are very effective in preventing several STIs, they provide significant but not complete protection against the human papillomavirus.
Many people infected with HPV show no symptoms and only find out belatedly when they have an abnormal Pap test or when they are told they have precancerous lesions or cancer.