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Human Papillomavirus: All you need to know

Author • Chimnwendum Opara



diagram of Human Papillomavirus: All you need to know

I recently worked as a freelance nurse in a women's clinic and the goal of this clinic is to educate women on avoidable life-threatening conditions and to encourage them to care for their health through routine check-ups especially if they are sexually active.

One procedure I enjoyed carrying out was the Visual inspection with acetic acid which is a simple procedure that tests women for the presence of Human papillomavirus using few tools and the naked eye.

It is important to note that HPV affects both men are women, while men are the carriers, women usually suffer more. In this blog post, we will talk about HPV in detail. Enjoy!

What is HPV?

Human Papilloma Virus is a viral infection that is gotten through sex (anal, oral, and vaginal) and causes genital warts and/or cervical cancer depending on the type.


There are basically three tests that are used to diagnose HPV, they include

  1. Visual Inspection with an acetic acid solution: This is a simple diagnostic procedure where a woman lies down on her back and flexes her knees. A vaginal speculum is used to get a clear view (this is uncomfortable but not painful) of her cervix and acetic acid is applied to the cervix ( it gives a peppery sensation). After one minute, your care provider will be able to decide if the virus is present or not.

During this visual inspection, your healthcare provider can determine the presence or absence of genital warts with his/her naked eyes.

  1. Pap Tests: This is also a simple procedure, the woman assumes the same position as the one above and a sample of cells from her cervix or vagina is used to determine the presence of this virus.

  1. DNA Tests: Here, cells from the woman’s cervix are used to identify the presence of HPV.

The most common type of test is the visual inspection with an acetic acid solution.

Signs and symptoms?

According to, there are usually no symptoms but when they do occur it is usually the presence of warts in the genitals. Genital warts are soft-like growths in the genitals that cause discomfort, pain, and itching. 

It is important to note that men are carriers of this virus while women are the sufferers.

Most women might not show any symptoms and will usually find out about this when they start seeing genital warts.

Some women that came into the clinic found out they have this condition because they decided to carry out the procedure out of curiosity. This is why it is important to carry out either of these tests as long as you are sexually active even if you have one partner.


There are three types of vaccines for HPV, these vaccines protect against different variants of HPV.

1. Cervarix: This vaccine protects against 2 types of variants (16 and 18) of HPV and these variants cause 70% of cervical cancer. 

cervarix drug or dosage picture

2. Gardasil: This vaccine protects against 4 types of variants (6, 11, 16, and 18) of HPV and these variants cause cervical cancer and genital warts. 


3. Gardacil-9: This vaccine protects against 9 types of variants (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) of HPV.

gardasil picture

Both males and females can take any of these vaccines from the age of 9 to 45. The vaccines are usually taken three times. 

Let’s assume you take the first dose today, the second dose will be taken in the next month and the third dose will be taken six months from the second dose. 

The cost of these vaccines varies from place to place but Cervarix is usually cheaper.

Side effects of these vaccines

Like most vaccines, HPV vaccines also have side effects and the include

  1. Fever

  2. Pain in the arm where the shot was given.

  3. Headache

  4. Nausea

  5. Dizziness


Depending on the degree of infection, you will be advised to either

  1. Go home and take more fruits rich in vitamin C. This is to allow your body to fight off the virus, you will be required to come back to test again in six months.

  2. Biopsy: This is to determine the degree of damage caused by the virus to your cervical cells and if the cells are cancerous.

  3. Cryotherapy: Here the genital warts are frozen with liquid nitrogen and you will be asked to come in for a regular check-up until the warts completely disappear.

It is important to note that there is no cure for the virus but there are interventions that are used to manage the disease. 

According to, there are a lot of medications that can be used to eliminate genital warts and remove precancerous lesions. Some of these medications include:

  1. Salicylic Acid: Although it causes skin irritation when applied directly on genital warts, it removes it one later at a time.

  2. Imiquimod: It is a prescription cream that is an immune response modifier by enhancing your immune system and increases its ability to fight the virus. 

  3. Podofilox: This is a gel-like topical prescription that is used to eliminate genital warts.


HPV is a silent killer which is why you should always go for regular screening at least once in 2 years especially if you are sexually active because early detection leads to a better outcome.


  1. Do condoms protect against HPV?

No, it does not. As long as you had an intimate relationship with someone, either oral, anal, or vaginal sex, you are at risk of HPV.

  1. Are the procedures painful?

This is mostly dependent on your perception of pain. 

  1. Can virgins carry out these tests?

No. HPV affects people who are sexually active.

  1. I have been celibate for 2 years but I have had sex before, can I do the test?

Yes, you should. As long as you’ve had sex, you are at risk of HPV.

  1. Does the vaccine protect against HPV?

Yes, it does. As long as you take the complete dose.,you%20get%20the%20HPV%20vaccine.,that%20cause%20most%20HPV%20cancers.

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