Aids Affair: Is HPV linked to cervical cancer?

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January 03, 2017
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Dear Counsellor,

I was recently diagnosed with the human papilloma virus (HPV), but what frightens me is that my friend told me that I could develop cervical cancer. Then I realised that my doctor asked that I do a pap smear test every three months, so I started putting things together.

Counsellor is HPV linked to cervical cancer? My girlfriend, who is now a Christian but was living a similar lifestyle, also told me that my infection with HPV could be caused the number of partners I have been having sex with. Can having multiple sex partners be a risk factor for cervical cancer?

Jean

Dear Jean,

Thanks for your letter. There are many different strains of the HPV, and yes, a certain strain is linked to cervical cancer. Whether you are in a strictly monogamous relationship or with multiple sex partners, the underlying cause of cervical cancer is HPV.

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 virus. 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 (or any other infection). This is why having multiple sex partners is one of the risk factors for not just HPV, but other sexually transmitted infections as well, including HIV.

FAITHFUL RELATIONSHIP

Being in a monogamous relationship (having one faithful partner) is not necessarily a free pass. You can be a carrier of HPV without showing any symptoms, and the HPV virus can have a long latency period in your body.

Even if you only have one sexual partner, if that partner has HPV, it is possible that he/she could give HPV to you. The only way for a woman to be positive she is 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.

My suggestion to you is that you follow your doctor's instructions carefully and protect yourself from contact with other STIs by limiting the number of sex partners to one faithful person who you know is also faithful, and by using a condom every time you have sex.

For more information on condom use, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, call the AIDS/STD Helpline toll free 1888-991-4444 or write to AIDS Affairs c/o The STAR, 7 North Street, Kingston.

CONTACT: Phyllis Hall

Ministry of Health

10-16 Grenada Way, Kingston 5

Telephone: 633-8201 or

537-2868

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