Talking to your doctor

Your doctor can help you protect yourself from HPV and the problems it can cause, like cervical cancer, genital warts, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers. Here are a few things your doctor can do for you:

  • Give you more information about HPV, how it's spread, and the problems it can cause.
  • Help you learn more about practicing safer sex.
  • Advise you how often to have a Pap test and pelvic exam.
  • Give you more information about HPV vaccination and whether it might be right for you.
  • Perform a Pap test and pelvic exam to check for cervical cancer, STIs, or other health problems.
  • Answer your health questions, including the ones you're too embarrassed to ask anyone else.

Still feel awkward? Remember that this is your doctor's job and that they've heard all kinds of health questions and seen all sorts of problems, many more embarrassing than this. You won't shock them and they won't be judging you. They're there to help answer your questions and to give you the tools you need to protect your health.

If you're worried about going to the doctor, take a friend or family member along for some moral support.

If you're too embarrassed to ask about HPV, print off the list of questions below to get the discussion started.

Here are a few questions to ask your doctor about HPV:

  1. What is HPV?
  2. What health problems can HPV cause?
  3. How is HPV spread, and how can I protect myself?
  4. What does it mean to practice "safer sex?" How will it help protect me?
  5. When should I have a Pap test and pelvic exam? What will happen during the exam?
  6. What about vaccination?
  7. What else do I need to know about protecting myself from HPV and other STIs?
  8. What should I tell my partner about HPV and safer sex?

Remember, your doctor is there to help you!

Talking to your partner(s)

Now that you know about HPV, it's really important that you share this information with your partner(s). By telling them about HPV, you're protecting each other and any partners that both of you may have now and in the future.

Here are a few key things to share with them:

  • HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact with the genital area, even if there is no actual sex. It's not spread through the blood.
  • You can help to protect yourselves from HPV by practicing safer sex. This means using a condom each and every time you have any sexual contact, keeping in mind that condoms don't provide complete protection against HPV. Because the condom doesn't cover all exposed skin that may be infected, you can still catch HPV.
  • Don't have sex or even skin-to-skin contact, when either one of you is showing signs of genital warts, blisters, sores, or itching. Also, remember that you can still catch the virus even if neither of you shows any physical signs of it.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners that you both have.
  • You can't tell if someone has HPV just by looking at them. Often, people have no symptoms but can still pass on the virus. Being with one sexual partner at a time won't necessarily protect you from getting HPV. Either one of you may already have caught HPV from a previous relationship.

Having open communication with your partner(s) can help protect you and your partner(s) from HPV and other STIs. Speak to your doctor and get more information about protecting yourself from STIs.

Talking to your friends

Speaking to your friends, or even telling them about this website, can make them more aware of HPV, the problems it can cause, like cervical cancer and genital warts, and how to protect themselves from getting it.

The more we talk about HPV, and the more people hear about it and start to ask questions, the better off we'll all be. Hopefully even the shyest of girls and women will be encouraged to talk to their doctors about HPV and protect themselves from getting it.

Now that you know about HPV and how to protect yourself, spread the word with your friends and encourage them to talk to their doctor. There's a saying: a problem shared is a problem halved. If we can keep cutting the rates in half, we can help eliminate many cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.