Fifty percent of the sexually active population is going to get the human papillomavirus at some point in their lifetime, said Sue Hirt, director of medical services at Planned Parenthood in Kent.
There are more than 80 types of the virus — a handful of which can lead to cancer.
“The more partners you have, the more likely you’re going to get a problem strain,” Hirt said. “Your immune system does fight (the majority of the strains). Even genital warts can go away on their own.”
There is no cure for HPV, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site, but Hirt said ointment-style treatments are available through private practitioners and clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
In June, the FDA approved Gardasil — the first vaccine available to females ages 9 to 26 to prevent cervical cancer, according to the FDA Web site.
The vaccination does not contain the HPV virus and receiving the vaccination once you have one type of HPV may prevent contracting other types.
Hirt said the three injections for the vaccine protect against 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and about 90 percent of the types of HPV that cause genital warts.
The vaccine is not available through the Kent branch of Planned Parenthood, but Hirt said some private doctors do carry it.
Freshman business management major Tia Angelo gets most of her information about sexually transmitted diseases from talking to her doctor and from reading magazines. She said her mother has always been open about safe sex while she was growing up.
“I was a little shocked by the statistics,” she said.
She’s been on birth control and uses condoms regularly to protect herself against diseases.
“I’m not ready to have a kid,” she said. “I don’t want to get an STD or anything like that.”
She said it would probably be helpful to have more information available on campus.
But Hirt said college students routinely visit Planned Parenthood offices to get answers to questions every week.
“It’s in the news so much right now that people really want to know,” she said.
The best way for students to protect themselves is to be abstinent, but if students choose not to be, the next best option is to limit their number of partners and to use condoms.
She explained there’s a question about the effectiveness of condoms, but she said it doesn’t matter if they’re 75 percent or 100 percent effective.
“You’re protecting yourself from a lot of things by using a condom every time,” she said.
Contact news correspondent Theresa Edwards at [email protected]