Honestly guys, I didn’t mean to scare you with that headline (apologies, if I did); I just couldn’t find a better one, lol. Okay, now, with that said, let’s get down to business.

There’s was a time when we, humans didn’t have much STIs to worry about, except HIV and maybe gonorrhea, but well, that was in the past because with each passing day, more and more (potentially) dangerous diseases seem to be cropping up.

One of such dangerous diseases is the human papillomavirus, otherwise known as HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and presently the most common one, with as much as 79 million people infected in the United States alone, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus is different from HIV and HSV (Herpes), but is just as deadly.

The diseases is commonly spread through sexual activity, including sex (oral, anal, vaginal) and kissing— and according to Dr. Mahiban Thomas, head of maxillofacial and head and neck surgery at Royal Darwin hospital, oral HPV (one of the over 100 types of HPV) is particularly responsible for most cases of cancer of the head and mouth, and exposure to an infected person increases your chances of suffering oropharyngeal cancer by 250 times more.

There’s is no age limitation on who can suffer HPV— anyone can, as long as they’re sexually active. You can also develop the disease, even if you’ve only had sexual intercourse with just one person, as symptoms may begin to show years after you had sex with an infected person, making it extremely hard for you to know exactly when you contracted the disease. The commonest signs of the virus in the body are genital warts and cancer. Apart from those two, it can be a little impossible to know one is infected as there are no other known symptoms of HPV, and no specific tests can be done in the genitals and mouth to detect the virus.

In most cases though, HPV can disappear on its own without causing any major damage to the body, however there are occasions when it doesn’t, and can lead to dangerous health problems like cancer and genital warts as I mentioned earlier.

The only ways to minimize your chances of suffering HPV is to practice safe sex. Use protection whenever you engage in sexual activity. Sticking to one partner who you’re sure is faithful to you is also another way. There are specific vaccines that can also shield you from HPV. Regular scans for cancers are also advised. Please, consult your doctor for more information regarding these preventive measures, and be safe and healthy.