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There are lots of different types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), some causes genital warts and some cause cervical cancer.

How it's caught

HPV is very common and you can catch it through vaginal or anal sex with another person who already has it, and because it is so common, most people will get infected at some point in their life.


People are often infected without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms. It doesn’t cause cervical cancer in every one who has it although it increases the risk.

Some types of HPV cause genital warts

Testing and treatment

There are now tests available for some HPV types which are going to start being used as part of the cervical cancer screening programme. You don’t need to be treated for HPV itself but you should get regular cervical smear tests to detect any changes that might lead to cervical cancer. Genital warts caused by HPV are diagnosed by clinical examination and do not require an HPV test.

Prevention and vaccination

Always use a condom to protect against HPV – the virus can’t pass through a condom. However, if the virus is present around the genitals in an area not protected by the condom infection may still occur. The virus can also be present on the skin around the genitals so condoms may not fully protect you from catching HPV.

All girls aged 12-13 are offered vaccination against the two types of HPV that can cause 70% of cervical cancer cases and the two types that cause 90% of genital warts.

Currently in Scotland all women aged 20-60 are offered cervical screening tests at intervals – these tests pick up any changes in your cervix that might indicate early signs of cervical cancer. Even if you have been vaccinated you still need to be screened because not all types of HPV that case cervical cancer are covered by the vaccine. For more information on cervical screening click here.

To find out more about HPV and cervical cancer vaccination click here.


MSM aged up to, and including 45 years of age, who attend sexual health or HIV clinics are now eligible to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The vaccine, which MSM can get from their sexual health service [link to your sexual health directory?] or HIV clinic helps prevent HPV infection, which can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. It is especially important for those who are living with HIV, and those who have more than one sexual partner. More information about the vaccine is available at :


For more information call  0800 22 44 88 or use our sexual health service finder to look for help in your area.