AIDS Affairs : Risk factors of cervical cancer

August 09, 2016


Dear Counsellor,

How can having multiple sex partners be a risk factor for cervical cancer? What is the difference between having sex with one man one thousand times and sex with thousand men (not that I'm planning to)?


Dear Curious,

Whether you are in a strictly monogamous relationship or vying for notches on your bedpost, the underlying cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV). Because HPV (a viral infection) may lead to cervical cancer, putting yourself at increased risk for HPV (like getting lots of action with a number of partners) may also increase your chance for developing cervical cancer.

The reason your risk of getting HPV increases along with the number of sexual partners you have is as follows:

Having sex with lots of different partners increases your chances of coming into contact with a person who is carrying the HPV. In other words, the probability of encountering an infected partner increases as the number of partners you have increases. On the other hand, having fewer sexual partners' means you simply have fewer chances to get busy with a person who has an HPV infection or any other sexually transmitted infection (STI). This is why having multiple sex partners is one of the risk factors for not just HPV, but other STIs as well, including HIV.

Being in a relationship with one partner is not necessarily a free pass. You can be a carrier of HPV for a long time without showing any symptoms because HVP can have a long latency period in the body. And even if you have only one partner who is now faithful to you, if that partner has HPV before, he could give it to you. The only way for you and other women to be positive you are HPV-free is to have regular Pap smears, where your health-care provider can check your cervix for abnormal cell growth (unfortunately, there is no equivalent screening for men).

Condom use is one of the best ways to reduce your risk for getting HPV and other STIs. Because HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, using condoms does not guarantee protection against HPV, as there may be some skin contact that condoms don't cover. But chances of HPV infection are drastically reduced when condom is use consistently.


Dear Counsellor,

I'm infected with herpes and would like to get pregnant. Please tell me about herpes and pregnancy.


Dear Mother-to-be,

While herpes is a serious infection in pregnancy, there are several women who deliver healthy and normal babies. Inform your doctor/health-care provider that you are infected with herpes so that the necessary precautions can be taken at the time of delivery to prevent your baby from becoming infected. You must understand, however, that a mother can pass the virus to her baby during delivery. The baby can suffer permanent brain damage or die. An infected mother also runs the risk of miscarriage. This is why it is important for you to inform your doctor that you are infected with herpes as soon as you find out about your infection, even before you get pregnant.

For more information on condom use HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections call the AIDS/STD Helpline toll free at 1888-991-4444

Other Features Stories