Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It's the same virus (but a different strain) as that which causes genital warts. The infection is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity, which means not just penetrative sex.
HPV is nothing to be ashamed of: 80% of people who have had sex will have HPV at some point in their lives
Often HPV infections clear by themselves within 2 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
The HPV vaccine is free. It is offered to boys and girls in year 7 or 8 at school and can also be given by your doctor. The vaccine protects against the 9 most common types of HPV but it doesn’t cover all of them.
Women who have been immunised still need regular smear tests.
You can find out more about the HPV vaccine on the Ministry of Health website.