Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Page last updated: 04 September 2014

HPV is a common virus that affects both males and females, which is passed from person to person through sexual contact. HPV can stay in the body for years, causing changes to cells that can lead to a wide range of HPV-related cancers and other serious diseases.

Different types of HPV can affect different parts of the body, and some types are more harmful than others. HPV can cause penile, anal, cervical, vulval and vaginal cancers, as well as cancers of the head and neck and serious genital and oral diseases. HPV can also cause genital warts, which can be distressing but do not cause cancer.

Since it was launched in 2007, the National HPV Vaccination Program has been credited with dramatically reducing the incidence of the HPV virus in Australia. Since 2013, the national HPV school vaccination program has included males and females aged 12-13 years.

Causes

HPV is a highly contagious virus that is transmitted through different forms of sexual contact. It is estimated that up to four out of five Australians will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives. The HPV vaccine is most effective when administered before a person becomes sexually active.

Symptoms

Although HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, most HPV infections are asymptomatic – meaning that they have no clinical symptoms. This means that people infected with HPV often do not know they have it, and can continue transmitting the virus to others.

Prevention

Vaccinating against HPV provides highly effective protection against the development of HPV-related cancers and disease. Three doses of the vaccine are given every two months over a six-month period. The HPV vaccine is provided free to all males and females aged 12-13 years as part of the National HPV Vaccination Program.

More information

  • More detailed information about the HPV school vaccination program can be found at the HPV Vaccination Program website.
  • The National HPV Vaccination Program Register collects data to evaluate the impact of the HPV Vaccination Program on rates of HPV-related cancers. For further information, visit the HPV Register website or call 1800 478 734.
  • A suite of HPV vaccination coverage reports, including the latest coverage data and a series of historical reports, is available in the Coverage Data section of the HPV Register website.