Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus, which is passed by both vaginal and oral sex. It can also be transmitted through intimate skin to skin contact.
It is a common virus that nearly all sexually active men and woman get at some point in their lives.
The NHS offers a vaccine called Gardasil, which protects against the two types of HPV that are believed to be responsible for cervical cancer. The vaccine has had brilliant results, offering a prevention of almost 100%, and has been approved by over 130 countries. Over the past six years of using the vaccine, HPV strains have reduced by 33% in women, and 66% in teenagers. A new improved Gardasil vaccine was introduced in 2014 and is estimated to prevent 87% of all worldwide cervical cancers.
This vaccine is offered to young girls between the ages of 12 and 13 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme, and is given as a series of two injections within a 6 to 24 month period. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35, with 8 women a day being diagnosed. There are over a hundred different types of HPV, often causing no symptoms. Cervical cancer occurs as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV. STI testing in London https://www.checkurself.org.uk/order-a-test-kit/ offers professional support, advice and fast screening for all STIs.
All medicines and vaccines have side effects, and the reactions resulting from the HPV vaccine have been the same as any other vaccine. The most common side effect from Gardasil is redness and swelling at the injection site. Much rarer complications include an anaphylactic reaction.
There are opposition groups who want Gardasil withdrawn from the market, alleging there are safety concerns. This was due to a number of girls who appeared to suffer severe non-specific reactions to the vaccine. Cases were taken to the Irish High Court, but were not successful in getting the vaccine withdrawn. Media organisations got on the bandwagon and their lack of sensitivity in dealing with scaremongering stories has made parents nervous about the vaccine. Given the volume of girls who have received the vaccine, statistically, some will inevitably develop a reaction, but the fact remains that overall, the vaccine will save hundreds of lives.