Transmission of HPV does not distinguish between gender, which is why we emphasize vaccination, emphasizes Dra. Ortiz. For the female population there are more options to detect it, but both sexes transmit it. Dr. Alexandra Ortiz Orama, obstetrician-gynecologist at the San Lucas Episcopal Medical Center in Ponce.
During the last decades it has been confirmed that the incidence of the virus is the same in men and women, even though there are no accurate statistics on the percentage of the male population that contracts the virus. However, it is more often diagnosed in sexually active women.
This was indicated by Dr. Alexandra Ortiz Orama, obstetrician gynecologist at the San Lucas Episcopal Medical Center in Ponce, who assured that this Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is one of the most common in young people between 20 and 25 years old.
“We are not detecting the virus in men because we don’t have tests to test them; we don’t have a standardized test for them, only for women. So we only realize that it occurs in women, but men have it. just as often as women,” the expert stressed.
In addition to this, the expert mentioned that the prevalence of HPV diagnosis falls mainly on young women between 20 and 25 years old. This is because, in this reproductive stage, the cervix is exposed to the vagina, so it is easier to contract the virus.
“This is why the test should not be performed before the age of 21, because if we perform the HPV test before that age, the vast majority will come out positive and will lead to a series of psychological problems in young women and the urgency resorting to unnecessary treatment,” he said.
More than 200 strains of Human Papillomavirus have been identified, however, experts highlight the potential risk of strains 16, 18, 6 and 11 as they are closely related to the development of cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer and cancer oral.
“HPV is one of the most common infections in, say, the United States. About 20 million people get it every year, and it’s said that 4 women out of 5 are going to get it at some point in their lives.” , emphasized the expert.
HPV detection: Does not produce symptoms in the initial stage
Diagnosis is usually made as routine procedure that is part of the consultation protocol when women go for gynecological examinations, such as the PAP. Unfortunately, this is the only way to be able to detect the presence of the virus, since there are no blood tests and, therefore, it is only detectable in women.
“People who have it don’t know they have it, and it is detected thanks to common test results. Now, when women have symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain during sexual intercourse, bloody vaginal discharge, among others, may already be signs that the patient is in stage of pre-cancer or cancer of the cervix, caused by HPV,” said Dr. Ortiz.
Once women are diagnosed with HPV, they receive clinical follow-up to identify the behavior of the virus in the patient’s body, and the damage it is doing to the body, if the infection it carries contains the most dangerous strains, among others.
Hence the importance of following the medical recommendations to regularly visit the gynecologist, strengthen the immune system because, in fact, most women can eliminate this virus on their own: “Really, this virus can be eliminated in about 2 years, That is why good health, exercise, nutrition and good sexual practice are important to combat it”.
In addition, it is also pertinent to remember that this virus is highly transmissible and does not necessarily spread through vaginal penetration, but by skin-to-skin contactoral, vaginal or anal intercourse.
HPV prevention campaigns
We must remember that, so far, there is no drug that can completely eliminate the virus. However, if the woman presents alterations in the cancer tests, she can undergo a colposcopy to, again, detail the percentage of damage she has caused in the body. If the virus has already exacerbated to a pre-cancerous stage, the patient may receive treatment such as cryosurgery and removal of the affected area.
The other treatments have a more preventive approach so that the woman tries to eliminate the virus, and prevent it from reaching highly risky stages for her health.
Over the years, vaccination has been improving, although the expert acknowledges that there is still much to be done: “First we had a vaccine against two strains, the second attacked four, and currently the vaccine we have combats 9 high-risk strains “.
Recently, medicine and, above all, the specialty of gynecology celebrated an important milestone in the fight against this virus, which was the expansion of the target group for prevention and immunity that would receive the vaccines, since from 26 years of age, it was expanded to 45 .
“The best age to be vaccinated is 12 years old, before the person is sexually active, because once there is sexual activity, the probability that the person is in contact with the virus is very high,” the specialist confessed.
Constant studies on the subject have proven that the vaccine is highly safe and effective, so there should be no fear regarding its application. In fact, the secondary effects of the vaccine are not serious at all, and neither does it alter health or leave negative effects.
“The receptivity of the vaccines has been good, everyone wants to be vaccinated. There are limitations between medical plans, since it is approved until the age of 45, but the coverage is until the age of 26. After that age, only some specific plans cover it , since the probability that the person is sexually active after the age of 26 is high,” he explained. “If, for example, someone has strain 16, which is the most dangerous, you will have coverage against the other strains. It is also important that patients know that, even if they have the virus, they should be vaccinated.”
General recommendations of the expert for the prevention of HPV
“The most valuable thing is to visit the doctor to do routine tests. We women have some very considerable tests that we must carry out annually, especially mammography after 40. In addition, we must take care of our diet, exercise 3 or 4 times a a week, take vitamin and folic acid in reproductive age, which helps to avoid congenital defects if we become pregnant, such as spina bifida. These are preventive habits that we must follow,” she concluded.