The ABCs of HPV
An A-to-Z guide on HPV (Human Papillomavirus) for LGBTQ+ folks!
A – Anal Cancer:
Most anal cancers are caused by HPV. HPV can be transmitted via receptive anal sex. Other types of anal play like using sex toys, fingering, fisting & rimming are less likely to transmit HPV, but they can transmit other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), making it important for all sexually active individuals to be aware of the risks and practice safe sex.
B – Bisexual:
Regardless of sexual orientation, HPV can affect any individuals who engage in sexual activity, including bisexuals. Most sexually active individuals will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. It’s important to be aware that condoms only offer some protection. For women and people with a cervix 5 yearly cervical screenings are advised to monitor any HPV that could be present and of course the HPV vaccination is for all genders and benefits everyone.
C – Cervical Cancer:
A large majority of cervical cancer is due to a persistent HPV infection, which affects women and people with a cervix. The good thing is cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Regular Cervical Screening Tests (CST) and the HPV vaccination work together to prevent cervical cancer. Did you know that the game changing self-collection option is now available for everyone needing a cervical screen? Find out more about self-collection here and here.
D – Diagnosis:
Early detection and appropriate management of any potential health concerns can prevent cervical cancer from developing so it is important you go for your routine CST, if you are a woman or person with a cervix, aged 25-74 who has ever been sexually active. CSTs every 5 years and consultations with your healthcare professional is key to staying informed and taking necessary steps for your well-being. If you notice any unusual lumps around your genitals, you can see your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic to check for genital warts.
E – Education:
Educating yourself about HPV and its transmission is vital. Stay informed through reliable sources and discuss any concerns or questions with healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ health. A great starting point is our LGBTQ+ Guide To HPV.
F – Fingering:
While it is not a common mode of transmission, HPV can be transmitted through hand-to-genital contact like fingering and fisting. However, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be spread through fingering and fisting, so it’s best to protect you and your partners and using gloves when fingering or fisting can help reduce the risk of transmitting STIs.
G – Gardasil:
Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against several types of HPV that can cause genital warts and certain cancers. It is recommended for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. The vaccine is safe to get at any age, but the older you get, the less protection it provides and is best to have it before you are sexually active.
H – Healthcare Providers:
Finding LGBTQ+ friendly healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about sexual health is a fabulous way to stay supported and on top of your health. We understand that your gender identity can be a barrier to healthcare for you. TransHub has a list of gender affirming doctors.
I – Immune System:
Having a weakened immune system can increase the risk of HPV-related health issues, this is particularly important for, but not limited to, people living with HIV (PLWHIV). If you have a compromised immune system, discuss HPV prevention and early detection strategies with your healthcare provider.
J – Joint Responsibility:
In relationships and sexual encounters, both partners share a joint responsibility in safeguarding their sexual health. Open communication, mutual consent, and a commitment to practicing safer sex measures can help reduce the risk of HPV transmission and keep the fun times rolling.
K – Kissing:
It may seem reasonable to assume that HPV can be transmitted through kissing, particularly deep kissing. However, a recent review of the evidence found no specific studies proving a link between kissing and HPV transmission. Based on what has been proven, oral sex is the most proven route for oral HPV transmission.
L – Lesbian:
Lesbians are not immune! Women who have sex with women can contract HPV through sexual activities involving genital contact. Regular cervical screening, HPV vaccination, and practicing safe sex are essential for lesbian women, including those who have never had sexual contact with men.
M – Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM):
N – Non-Binary:
Non-binary individuals should also be aware of HPV risks and understanding how HPV is transmitted because it’s essential to prevention. For non-binary folk with a cervix who are looking for cervical screening info, check out our cervical screening campaign Own It. Consult with healthcare providers for personalised guidance.
O – Open Communication:
Honest and open communication with sexual partners is vital. Discussing sexual health, HPV status, and vaccination history can help make informed decisions and reduce the risk of transmission. Try Checking out Ending HIV’s blog How to tell someone you have at STI.
P – Prevalence:
HPV is highly prevalent among sexually active individuals, including those within the LGBTQ+ community. Recognising the widespread nature of HPV underscores the importance of regular cervical screening, HPV vaccination, and open communication about sexual health to promote overall well-being and reduce transmission risks.
Q – Queer:
Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, all individuals engaging in sexual activity can be at risk of HPV infection. Routine screenings and HPV vaccination are essential for the whole community.
R – Risk Factors:
Understanding that engaging in unprotected sex is the main risk factor associated with HPV being aware of this can help LGBTQ+ individuals make informed decisions about their sexual health.
S – Safer Sex:
Practicing safer sex, like using condoms or dental dams, can reduce the risk of HPV transmission. But since it can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, they’re not 100% effective. While HPV is unlikely to be transmitted by fingering, fisting or sex toys, other STIs can be. It’s recommended to use condoms on sex toys and gloves for fingering and fisting reduce the risk of STIs.
T – Transgender:
Transgender folks should follow HPV prevention recommendations and consult with your healthcare provider for information personalised for you. We understand that access to healthcare can be a barrier for trans people. If you aren’t linked in with a GP you are comfortable with, TransHub has a list of gender affirming doctors.
U – Understanding Consent:
Consent is crucial in any sexual encounter. Remember to communicate clearly, respect boundaries, and obtain informed consent from all parties involved in sexual activities including safe sex practices. Read about checking for consent here.
V – Vaccination:
HPV vaccination is recommended for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. It can protect against several types of HPV that cause genital warts and certain cancers. Whether you are HPV-vaccinated or not, all women and people with a cervix aged 25-74, still need regular cervical screening, as the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.
W – Warts:
HPV can cause genital warts, which are very common and can appear on the penis, vagina, scrotum, vulva, anus, or surrounding areas. If you notice any unusual growths, consult with a healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment options.
X – X-tra Care:
Taking extra care of your sexual health includes regular screening, practicing safe sex, and staying up-to-date with vaccinations. Prioritise self-care and make informed choices around sexual activities.
Y – Yearly Check-Ups:
Regular check-ups with healthcare providers are important to monitor your sexual health and frequent check-ups are a good idea for those with multiple sexual partners. Discuss any concerns, ask questions, and in particular ask about appropriate cancer screening info and vaccinations.
Z – Zero Stigma:
Remember that HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. There is no need to feel shame or stigma. Seek support, get informed, and prioritise your sexual health alongside your overall well-being.
For a deeper dive into HPV check out our blog An LGBTQ+ Guide to HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
Note: This guide is meant to provide a broad overview of HPV. For personalised advice and more detailed information, consult with LGBTQ+ friendly healthcare providers who can address your specific concerns.
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