The Sunday Mail
- The behaviours that put you at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease like HIV can also put you at risk for HPV.
- Many people are able to fight off HPV infections without treatment.
- People with HIV are often unaware they have the virus.
Although HPV and HIV are both sexually transmitted, there is no medical link. However, the behaviours that put you at risk of contracting HIV can put you at risk for HPV.
What is HPV?
Over 150 related viruses are collectively referred to as human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can cause other health conditions, including genital warts and cervical cancer.
HPV is so widespread that most sexually active people will contract at least one type of HPV during their lives.
What is HIV?
HIV is transmitted sexually. The virus attacks and destroys CD4-positive T cells. These are white blood cells that defend your body by searching for and fighting off infection. Without healthy T cells, your body has little defence against opportunistic infections.
If you do not get treatment for it, HIV can lead to Aids.
In Zimbabwe, more than 1.2 million people are infected with HIV. A number of people are unaware of their status because they have never tested for HIV.
What are the symptoms of HPV and HIV?
Often, those with healthy immune systems are able to fight off HPV infections on their own without experiencing any noticeable health issues.
When the body is not able to fight off HPV, symptoms can present as genital warts. You can also develop warts in other parts of your body, including the hands, feet, legs and face
HPV primarily increases your risk of cervical cancer, but it increases your risk for other cancers, too. This includes cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and throat
Cancers from HPV may take years to develop. Because of this, it is important to get regular check-ups. Women should get regularly screened for cervical cancer.
People with HIV are often unaware that they have the virus. It generally does not cause any physical symptoms. In some cases, you may experience symptoms of illness anywhere from one to six weeks after becoming infected.
This includes a fever, a rash, enlarged lymph nodes and joint pain
What are the risk factors for HPV and HIV?
You can contract either virus when you come into direct contact with someone who has it. The viruses can enter your body through any orifice or break in your skin.
You can become infected with HPV by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. HIV can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including through blood, breast milk, or sexual fluids. Penetration during sex is not required to contract HIV. Exposure to the pre-seminal or vaginal fluids of an infected person may be all that is required. Unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex increase your risk of getting HIV.
Sharing needles when injecting drugs is another method of transmission.
Having had an STI increases your risk for HIV, and people with HIV are more likely to have HPV.
How are HPV and HIV treated?
Treatment options for HPV
No specific treatments for HPV are available, but it often clears up on its own. Treatments for genital warts, cancer, and other conditions that occur due to HPV are available.
Treatment options for HIV
The HIV infection has three stages:
People often describe the symptoms of acute HIV infection as having “the worst flu ever.” This stage often presents with typical flu-like symptoms.
In clinical latency, the virus is living in a person and causes few or no symptoms.
In Aids, the body’s immune system is badly damaged and vulnerable to opportunistic infections
If you are newly diagnosed, your focus should be on finding and taking the medicine that best works for you. These medicines fall into these five categories:
reverse transcriptase inhibitors
combinations of two or more other drugs
Although each type of drug fights HIV in a slightly different way, they work either to stop the virus from infecting cells or to stop it from making copies of itself.
If you take the proper medication, it is possible that HIV may never progress to AIDS.
No cure is available for HIV. This is a lifelong condition that requires treatment. When HIV was first discovered in the 1980s, it was rare for people with the virus to live more than a few years. Now, effective medicines that can dramatically extend your lifespan are available.
Is there any way to prevent HPV and HIV?
You can lower your risk by doing the following:
Use a condom when having vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Do not have sex with people you do not know or whose sexual history you do not know about.
Do not have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol because they can lower inhibitions and make you more vulnerable to taking sexual risks.
Visit your nearest health centre to learn more about screening and preventive care.
Get tested for HIV and know your status.