What is HPV?

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide and affects both men and women. It is estimated that 80% of the global population will have HPV at some point in their lives.

The virus is transmitted primarily through the transfer of fluids during physical contact as in sexual activity, including non-penetrative sex.

Over 200 different types of HPV, categorised as either low or high risk, are known. Low-risk types are responsible for genital warts and mild cervical changes. (See high-risk below)

HPV by the Numbers

HPV and Its Link with Cancer

At least 14 strains are cancer-causing or high-risk.

Persistent HPV infection can lead to cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile, head and neck cancers. Typically, HPV-related cancers develop gradually and may not be diagnosed until decades after a person is infected. Most infections affect youth and young adults.

How it can be prevented?

While most HPV infections clear up on their own, there is always the risk that some may progress to invasive cervical or other cancers. Thus, early detection through HPV/cervical cancer screening and pap smear tests, and gender-neutral vaccination, are the first lines of defence.

The first preventative HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved in 2006, and was subsequently introduced in many middle- and high-income countries. Through the support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), HPV vaccines was made available to low-income countries.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer arises when certain HPV strains infect the cervix or the neck of the womb, causing the cells to change. It is the 4th most frequently diagnosed cancer and the 4th leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide.

Cervical cancer is the only preventable cancer and can be eliminated through HPV vaccination, regular screening, and treatment.


leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide


most frequently diagnosed cancer