Ensuring optimum health is something that we hope every girl should strive towards. Today, we empower you to protect your health through busting myths related to HPV, a virus linked to cervical cancer.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus, or more commonly known as HPV, is a sexually transmitted virus that can result in genital warts and various cancers, especially cervical cancer. A way to protect yourself from contracting the HPV virus is to take the HPV vaccination, which has been available since 2010.
How do I get HPV vaccinations?
Polyclinics and private clinics in Singapore provide HPV vaccination, and it is given over two or three doses. The interval between the first and second jab is 1 to 2 months, and that between the second and third is around 4-6 months. The vaccine is recommended for girls aged between 9-26 years old, with up to $400 claimable by Medisave.
There are 3 types of vaccines available, namely Cervarix, Gardasil-4 and Gardasil-9, which protect you from various HPV strains, especially strains 16 and 18, which can cause cervical cancer. Gardasil-9 offers the widest coverage of strains 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 42 and 58. Gardasil-4 covers type 6,11, 16 and 18, and lastly, Cervarix covers 16 and 18.
Cervarix can be found in the polyclinics in Singapore, whereas Gardasil-4 and Gardasil-9 are available in the DSC clinic and private clinics. Do consult your family doctor to check if they administer any of the 3 vaccines as well!
Do note however, that Gardasil-9 is currently not claimable by Medisave.
We have a comprehensive guide and a list of HPV vaccination prices at various clinics available here. Without further ado, here are 5 myths about HPV that you should stop believing:
Myth 1: HPV only affects women.
HPV affects both men and women. While men may not exhibit visible symptoms when infected, they are still at risk of penile cancer and genital warts, which may only manifest after several years. Women, on the other hand, have risk of developing genital warts, and possibly even cervical cancer. As such, both men and women should get vaccinated to protect themselves from HPV.
Myth 2: HPV only affects those that had sexual intercourse.
HPV can be transmitted through other sexual activities, such as anal and oral sex. In those cases, genital warts can potentially form in areas like the mouth. As such, it is important for everyone to protect themselves from the virus. The vaccine is most effective when taken before performing any sexual activity. However, even when one has begun engaging in sexual activity, taking the vaccination still offers some level of protection.
Myth 3: If I don’t have multiple sex partners, I will not get HPV.
HPV can still be passed between monogamous couples, making it possible for you to contract HPV even if you only have one sexual partner. While it is not known how the virus originates in the body, the key transmitter lies in engaging in sexual activity.
Myth 4: If I wear a condom, I will not get HPV.
Latex condoms do offer some level of protection, but it has limited effectiveness against HPV as it can still be transmitted via genital skin to skin contact, not just sexual intercourse.
Myth 5: I will know when I get HPV.
Sometimes, the virus can lay dormant in an infected person, and will only exhibit symptoms after a few years. The most common sign of infection would be the presence of genital warts, and in worse cases, cancer. As such, we highly recommend women to go for regular pap smears to detect any abnormalities present in the cervix, even when one has already been vaccinated against HPV.
Knowing the importance of protecting oneself from HPV is the first step to action. While contracting HPV can result in many consequences, it is also easily preventable. As such, do take the next step to find out more about the vaccination, and where you can get yourself vaccinated. Here’s to a shot (literally) at better health!
This article was contributed by the team behind Take 3, Fight HPV, a campaign that aims to raise awareness about HPV. The ladies behind this campaign are a group of passionate young women from NUS who recognise the importance of making informed health choices. Through the campaign, they hope to reach out to young women to empower themselves with relevant knowledge, and to protect their future selves with the HPV vaccination. This effort, while small, will hopefully translate to bigger, more plausible actions in the future!