Genital Warts – HPV
There are over 100 different types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), but only a few of those cause genital warts. Other types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. HPV is one of the most common STIs in Myanmar. Most people fight off the virus on their own, but about 1% of all HPV-infected people develop genital warts. An even smaller number of women with HPV develop cervical cancer if the HPV is untreated.
Any skin-to-skin contact with infected areas can pass along HPV, even if the person who has HPV doesn’t have any visible warts or other symptoms. You can also get it from oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Most people who have it don’t know it because they don’t have symptoms. Even people who have the type of HPV that causes genital warts might not see anything. Some people may see small bumps in or around the vagina, penis, or anus. The bumps may grow in bunches or clusters and they may itch.
For women, clinicians can do a simple test called a Pap smear to look for cervical abnormalities (pre-cancer or cancer). If you think you have warts, your doctor will look at your genitals using a bright light to see the warts.
Most of the time, HPV goes away on its own. The warts may go away on their own, too. If they do not go away, or they are bothering you, your doctor can remove the warts. There are also some medicines that you can use at home that cause the warts to go away. Even if the warts go away or are removed, the virus may stay in your skin and can be spread to others. If untreated/undetected, some types of HPV can develop into cervical cancer, which is the most common cancer among women aged 15-44 in Myanmar. HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against HPV. The best way to avoid HPV is to get the HPV vaccine, which has been available in Myanmar since 2008.