The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection that causes 99% of cervical cancers. The virus spread through sexual contact and about four out of five people have an HPV infection at some time in their lives. There are many different types of HPV and some are more likely than others to lead to cervical cancer.
For most people an HPV infection clears by itself within two years (especially in women under 30). You might not even know you’ve had it. However, sometimes it becomes a persistent infection, which over time may develop into cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine
Immunising against HPV and regular smear tests are the best protection against cervical cancer
HPV immunisation is free for everyone aged 9–26 years (inclusive), including boys and young men. It is offered to boys and girls in year 7 or 8 at school and can also be given by your doctor.
Women who have been immunised still need regular smear tests. While the vaccine protects against the 9 most common types of HPV but doesn’t protect against them all, so it’s important to have cervical screening even if you have had the HPV vaccine.
You can find out more about the HPV vaccine on the Ministry of Health website.