doctor Find a doctor

You are here

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus. Around 75-80% of sexually active people have been infected with HPV, and this is much higher in people with HIV. There are over 40 different HPV types that may infect the genital area.

Oncogenic (cancer-causing) HPV, also called high-risk HPV, can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women; penile cancer in men; and anal cancer and some mouth/throat cancers in men and women. Non-oncogenic HPV or low-risk HPV can cause warts in the genital and anal areas. These warts are called condyloma acuminatum.

HPV lives only in skin cells, so the only way to get it from another person is through skin-to-skin spread. That usually means contact between genital skin of one person and genital skin of another person. It is currently believed that HPV is rather easily acquired; wearing condoms is helpful in preventing HPV spread.

Most infections with HPV will go away on their own, without any treatment, within 2 years of infection. But in some cases the infection does not go away and is then called chronic or persistent. Chronic infection with high-risk HPV may cause dysplasia and could eventually cause cancer.

People living with HIV are more likely to have an HPV infection that lasts a long time. This means that people living with HIV have a higher chance of getting dysplasia or cancer compared with people without HIV.

Dr. Elizabeth Stier and her team provide services in the diagnosis and management of HPV related diseases of the lower genital tract. This includes condyloma (warts) and precancerous changes (dysplasia or intraepithelial neoplasia) of the cervix, vulva, and/or anus. Although Dr. Stier is a gynecologist, she evaluates both men and women referred for an abnormal anal Pap test with High Resolution Anoscopy. Patients with precancerous changes of the anus may be offered treatment with an office procedure called Infrared Coagulation.

Anal Dysplasia and Anal Cancer

Anal Dysplasiarefers to abnormal cells or a lesion in the lining of the anal canal. These cellular abnormalities can be low-grade to high-grade. Some low-grade lesions may progress to high-grade lesions. High-grade lesions are very common. High-grade lesions can progress to cancer. About one out of every 1,000 high-grade lesions will progress to cancer. Anal dysplasia is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Online Resources

For more information on anal cancer, please download the PDF brochures for Anal Dysplasia/Cancer and Infrared Coagulation.

For more information, please contact:

For information about open clinical trials: