Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body.

Examples of this include your:

  • cervix
  • anus
  • mouth and throat

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.

How do people get infected with HPV?

Body contact: HPV can infect skin not normally covered by a condom, so using a condom does not fully protect someone from the virus. 
Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious. They are spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas.

What can HPV infection do?

Infection with genital HPV can cause:

  • Genital warts – which is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within your cervix – which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer
  • Other types of HPV infection can cause minor problems, such as common skin warts and verrucas.

When should I get tested for HPV?

Girls aged 12-13 are offered a vaccination against HPV to help protect them against types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women aged 25-64 are offered cervical screening to check for abnormal cells in the cervix.


In the HPV test, a doctor takes a swab of cells from the cervix, just as for the Pap test. The cells are then analyzed in a laboratory to identify 13-14 of the high-risk HPV types associated with cervical cancer.


If the HPV infection has caused abnormal cell changes that could lead to cervical cancer, there are four main treatment options:

Laser therapy uses light to burn away abnormal cells.
Cryotherapy. This involves freezing the abnormal cells with liquid nitrogen. 
 Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). The abnormal cells are removed with an electrical current. 
 Conization which is a procedure that removes abnormal cells, also known as a cone biopsy.

The main objective is to remove all the abnormal cells and also remove most or all of the cells with HPV.  However, sometimes the cell changes, precancerous cell changes, or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, will heal on their own.