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If you were in the hotseat and Regis asked you to name the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, would you come up with Human Papilloma Virus or HPV?  If so, you'd be ahead of several surveys of college students which have found knowledge of HPV sorely lacking.  [J Am Board Fam Pract 14(3):178-183, 2001].

This is important knowledge for college students as well as all sexually active adults:  HPV infection is rampant among college students and usually those infected have no symptoms.  One out of 10 infected people develop genital warts which can lead to many health problems.  More importantly, HPV has been well established as the most important causative factor of cervical cancer, as well as penile and anal cancer. In 1998, 12,800 women in the United States had cervical cancer diagnosed, and 4,800 died of the disease. While a test to diagnose HPV is now available, treatment of HPV is complicated and expensive.  Pap smears can also detect early cervical changes which may be related to HPV infection. 

Primary prevention of HPV infection is a critical public health issue; practicing safe sex is the only practical prevention.

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Created: 8/16/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.
Reviewed: 6/30/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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