HPV often does not show symptoms.
If HPV symptoms do develop, these may appear as warts on the genital area or as an abnormal cervical smear.
Four out of five people become infected with HPV at some time in their lives. The peak incidence of HPV infection is between the ages of 16 and 20.
HPVs infect the deeper layers of the skin and internal passages such as the the cervix (at the lowest part of the uterus and at the top of the vagina), genital area and the mouth.
Usually HPV infections get better on their own. Some HPV infections don’t get better, and over time cause abnormal cells to grow. If these cells go undetected (for example, by cervical screening) and untreated, over time, usually many years, they can lead to cancer.
The types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts are spread through intimate skin to skin contact (not just sexual intercourse).
Genital warts are caused by low-risk types of HPV and are not associated with cervical cancer. Genital warts are the most commonly reported sexually transmitted viral infection in New Zealand, but rates among adolescents have fallen significantly since HPV immunisation was introduced in 2008.
Read more to find out about the symptoms of HPV and genital warts.