HPV stigma must end says local AM

Ogmore Assembly Member Huw Irranca-Davies is supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to tackle the myths and stigma around the common ‘Human Papillomavirus’ (HPV) and get the facts out.

Last year the cervical screening programme in Wales moved to test for HPV first which is a much more accurate way of identifying women at a greater risk of cervical cancer. However, there are a lot of myths around the virus which 80% of us will get at some point in our lives. 

In most cases, HPV infection goes away without doing the body any harm. Sometimes it causes cells to change which, if not treated, could develop into cervical cancer. Testing for HPV is estimated to prevent almost 500 diagnoses of cervical cancer every year in the UK.

Huw Irranca-Davies AM and the UK’s cervical cancer charity want as many people as possible to understand the importance of cervical screening and to feel informed and comfortable when they get their results.

The Ogmore AM said: “It is alarming that one in four women in Wales are not attending cervical screening tests which could save their lives and that the misconceptions around HPV may further discourage take up of this essential screening.  

We must raise awareness of HPV and alleviate the harmful myths. Cervical Cancer can be prevented, and regular screening is one step closer to eradicating this horrible disease and saving the lives of thousands of women.”

New research conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found a third of women consider HPV a taboo topic and would not want anyone to know if they had it.  A quarter haven’t heard of HPV and would be feel embarrassed if they were told they had the virus. Calls to the charity’s Helpline about HPV have already risen 50% over the last year and this is expected to rise significantly.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “HPV can be confusing, but it is nothing to be ashamed of. 80% of us will get at least one type of HPV in our lives and in most cases the immune system will get rid of the infection without it causing any harm. We need to get the facts out about HPV and get rid of harmful myths and stigma around this really common virus.”

To find out more ring the free and confidential national helpline: 0808 802 8000.

HPV Facts:

  • At some point in our lives, 4 out of 5 (80%) of us will get at least one type of HPV. In most cases the immune system will get rid of it. Around 90% of HPV infections clear within 2 years
  • HPV infections do not usually have any symptoms, so you may not even know you had it.
  • HPV lives on our skin, so it is easy to get and difficult to completely protect against.
  • There are over 200 types of HPV. About 40 HPV types affect the genital areas
  • Most genital HPV types are low risk. They can cause conditions like genital warts
  • About 13 HPV types are linked to cervical cancer. These types are called high-risk HPV.
  • You are at risk of getting HPV from your first sexual contact, whatever that is – it doesn’t have to be penetrative sex
  • We can have HPV for a long time without knowing about it, so it is hard to know when we got HPV or who we got it from
  • Cervical screening (a smear test) can find a high-risk HPV virus and changes early, before it develops into cancer.
  • For more information: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/hpv

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