How is HPV Transmitted?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually-transmitted infection that is very common and can be acquired by most individuals who engage in sex. There are more than 200 strains of HPV – each of which is named with a certain number. Forty of these strains can infect the genital area such as the vulva, vagina, and cervix for women, penis and scrotum for men, and the rectum and anus.
Most genital HPV are harmless and do not manifest any observable symptoms. Some strains are low-risk as they only manifest genital warts and do not lead to cancer. Meanwhile, high-risk strains cause abnormal changes in the cells that may lead to cancer in parts of the genitals such as the cervix, vulva, penis, and anus.
This may also lead to Oropharyngeal cancer which affects the throat, mouth, and tonsils. Sadly, symptoms of high-risk HPV strains do not manifest until it becomes severe.
Can You Get HPV Through Kissing?
HPV spreads when a person infects another through skin-to-skin contact, but the virus does not manifest any symptoms. Thus, a person might not know that he or she is infected and can spread the disease to the other person. However, it is understood that HPV is spread through the following:
Sexual intercourse involving genital (penis) penetration in the vagina and anus can contribute to the spread of HPV. As noted by the CDC, the virus most commonly spreads through this sexual act.
Skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, even without penetration, is also a potential mode of transmission of HPV.
Genital stimulation using the mouth, lips, or tongue can bring HPV from one person to another. This includes stimulation of the penis (fellatio), vagina (cunnilingus), or anus (anilingus).
Despite not having actual skin-to-skin contact, sharing sex toys may also bring HPV infection from one user to another. In a study by Anderson, et. al (2014), it was found out that HPV may potentially be transmitted via using a shared sex toy and can be detected for up to 24 hours after cleaning.