What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.

Examples of this can include:

  • Cervix
  • Anus
  • Mouth & Throat

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.

Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious. They are spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas.

What can HPV infection do?

Infection with some types of genital HPV can cause:

  • genital warts  which is the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in England.
  • abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within your cervix – which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer

Women aged 25-64 are offered cervical screening to check for abnormal cells in the cervix.

HPV Vaccination

All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer. It's usually given to girls in year eight at schools in England.

According to Cancer Research UK, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35. In the UK, 2,900 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, that's around eight women every day.

Around 970 women died from cervical cancer in 2011 in the UK. It's estimated that about 400 lives could be saved every year in the UK as a result of vaccinating girls before they are infected with HPV.

The HPV vaccine is delivered largely through secondary schools, and consists of two injections into the upper arm spaced at least six, and not more than 24 months apart (girls who began vaccination before September 2014 receive three injections).