HPV, which stands for human papillomavirus rarely causes symptoms, which is why it is so important to get tested regularly.

Let’s set the record straight on how you can get HPV.

Here are some of the ways you can get HPV:

1. You can get HPV through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex
2. You can get HPV through oral sex
3. You can get HPV through masturbating
4. You can get HPV from contact with infected surfaces

1. You can get HPV through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex

The most common way of contracting HPV is through vaginal or anal sex HPV can be passed from men to women, men to men and women to women.

You can get HPV through the virus entering the body through cuts or lesions on the skin or intimate skin to skin contact, especially genital-to-genital contact. There are HPV can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as small bumps or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat. These sorts of genital warts are generally shaped like a cauliflower.

Warts can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner—even if the infected partner has no signs of genital warts. It is estimated that 90% of genital warts are caused by two strains of the virus, type 6 and type 8.

HPV can cause cervical cancer, and other cancers too. Cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis and anus have all been linked to HPV infection. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat (called oropharyngeal cancers). The types of HPV that can cause gential warts are not the same types that cause cancer. Cancer can take many years to develop and there is no way to know which people who have HPV infection will develop cancer or other health problems.

It is important to use condoms every time you have sex, this can lower your risk of getting infected with HPV. However, using a condom does not offer full protection from HPV infection due to the fact that it can live on areas of the body that are not covered by a condom.

2. You can get HPV through oral sex

You can get oral HPV through having oral sex. Giving oral sex to someone who has a genital HPV infection can lead to HPV infection in the throat. Oral HPV infection is a risk-factor for oropharyngeal cancer and the number of oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV infection is increasing.
Again, wearing a condom during oral sex will not fully guarantee that you will not contract HPV. This highlights the importance of getting the HPV vaccination, as well as following the recommended screening guidelines for HPV.

3. You can get HPV through masturbating

You can get HPV through genital touching/masturbating, though it may be an awkward topic and it’s quite rare in comparison to the incidence rate of HPV infection through genital to genital contact and oral sex, masturbating may lead to HPV infection.

This is known as self-inoculation where the virus can be transferred to other body parts (the hands), usually from the genitals.

Getting HPV in this way is rare in comparison to the aforementioned but it is something to bear in mind. Make sure to always thoroughly wash your hands.

4. You can get HPV from contact with infected surfaces

You can HPV from contact with infected surfaces, including sex toys, again, this might be awakward to read but it’s important to know.

HPV can live outside of the body on surfaces. The highest risk for getting HPV in this instance would likely be if the virus is living on a sex toy that you use regularly.

Note on congenital HPV:

Congenital HPV may occur via vertical transmission when a mother passed the HPV virus to child during delivery through an infected birth canal. Infants can often clear the HPV virus before they are 12 months old.

Did you know that it is now possible to take a HPV test from the comfort of home? With LetsGetChecked, you can take the test from home, receive your results within a week and receive on-going support and guidance from our clinical support team.

Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically reviewed by Gwen Murphy, PhD, MPH.