Q & A about HPV with Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield: Part 1 of 2
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Q & A about HPV with Dr. H. Hunter Handsfield: Part 1 of 2

November 15, 2019


Current research shows that more than half
of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. New
screening technologies, vaccines, and updated guidelines have brought many changes in recent
years to the fields of HPV research and cervical cancer prevention. For insight on these and
other related topics, we turned to Dr. Hunter Handsfield. A physician, veteran researcher,
and expert in the field of sexually transmitted infections. Dr. Handsfield is with the University
of Washington Center for AIDS and STDs. And for 25 years he directed the STD control program
for the public health department in Seattle. Dr. Handsfield is also a member of the American
Social Health Association’s Board of Directors. Women should start getting tested at around
age 21. It used to be set at age 18 or soon after becoming sexually active but 21 is the
direction that most guidelines are going. The main use of HPV testing is as a supplement
to the pap smear. With a pap smear, you look at abnormal cells or look for abnormal cells
under the microscope that could indicate cancer or more commonly precancerous changes. Adding
HPV test to that in some cases can provide guidance to the patient and her doctor about
follow up testing and additional testing that may be necessary and case management. Now
the women over age 30 have a higher proportion of positive results and are positive because
they’ve been infected for many years. And it is this prolonged infection that are most
likely or most frequently associated with the development of precancerous changes or
cancer itself. Women who are over 30 should have HPV testing routinely along with their
pap smears. Younger women, very occasionally, require HPV testing as well. Especially if
her pap smear has a certain abnormality. In younger women, the presence of HPV is so frequent
that it becomes less useful. That is a woman who has a positive HPV test lets say at age
22, statistically, they are very likely to clear that infection before other problems
can lead, important problems can lead to cancer or that sort of thing. Well first, the current
tests have been standardized by collecting specimens from the cervix and moist tissue.
So the reliability of that test when collected from dry, penile skin is a potential issue.
But equally important, the large majority of HPV infections are asymptomatic. They may
not wait and clear up on their own without ever causing serious health problems. Either
for the man or for the most part their sexual partners. There’s really nothing that can
be done in terms of treating, or for that matter, counseling behavior change in men
with positive HPV tests versus those who do not. Well two vaccines are available. One
of which covers the two HPV types, called HPV 16 and 18 that are responsible for about
70% of cervical and anal cancers. The other vaccine covers four types, the same two that
we just discussed but also the two types called HPV 6 and 11 which cause about 90% of genital
and anal warts. The vaccines are indicated that up to age 26, we’re all sexually active
people, and even before people become sexually active, they can go as low as 9 years old
in the case of one of the two vaccines and I think 11 years old for the other. HPV infections
of the types that the vaccines cover are often acquired so early once someone becomes sexually
active that the maximum protection occurs if immunization is done before someone has
their first sexual exposure. The HPV vaccines are just as safe as just about any other vaccine
to use. Although there have been media stories about individually rare side effects, for
the most part, those are probably not related to the vaccine. As with any injection, there’s
the potential for a little bit of discomfort or soreness at the injection site but other
than that, these vaccines are essentially harmless and cause no more side effects than
influenza vaccines or common childhood vaccines. Syncope, simple fainting, occurs under stress
and occurs in a certain proportion of people undergoing any medical procedure that has
a little bit of pain or emotion associated with it. It’s no more frequent with HPV vaccines
than with any other injections. If you have questions about HPV vaccines visit
www.ashasexualhealth.org to learn more.

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  1. As future PE and Health teacher I understand the need to inform people especially adolescents about STI's however I feel that it starts with informing people about what a healthy sexual relationships look like which would help to prevent STI's in the first place. perhaps you could do a video on that ?

  2. God's said when a man and woman join, Two Become One let them not separate. When you start separating or divorcing and sleeping around, diseases come around. Maybe we should be doing what God told us. If we enforced it we wouldn't have these problems. Do what the Bible says. Don't cry when your dick itches and don't cry when your pussy drips and stinks.

  3. Just listened to this guy 'rubbish' the ahcc supplement. I shall update those who are interested as I'd been taking AHCC for a month.. mouth symptoms ceased after 5 days of taking it… purchased some 'fake' AHCC (white plastic pots purporting to be QOL Labs), started taking the new pots.. and I went down like a ton of rocks.. within 5 days I and my child noticed I was again sleeping an extra 6 hours in the day.. and my symptoms in my mouth were back. I have now recieved what should be the genuine product (as was taking) and have been taking for 2 days now….. If I didn't have symptoms in my mouth to monitor I wouldn't be any the wiser. I am being treated for CIN3 (in the UK referred to as VIN3) with imoquibod Aldera cream by health 'professionals'. This is challenging as it has some very uncomfortable side effects but promising. The blisters in my mouth are already calming down. Please comment here if you'd like a long term update.

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