HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

HPV (or human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can be serious. The health problems it can cause include genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat (including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

HPV is spread through genital contact. Males and females can spread HPV without engaging in sexual intercourse. However, it is most commonly spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. HPV can be spread even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

What you should do

Get vaccinated

A vaccine exists that can protect males and females against HPV. This vaccine is safe and effective.

All boys and girls who are 11- or 12-years-old should get vaccinated. Vaccination is also recommended for:

  • males through 21 years of age if they were not vaccinated when they were younger.
  • females through 26 years of age if they were not vaccinated when they were younger.
  • people with compromised immune systems, and other people who are at high risk for HPV.

HPV vaccine is given in three shots over six months. It is important that all three doses are given.

HPV vaccine best protects boys and girls who are vaccinated before their potential exposure to HPV. That is why HPV vaccination is recommended at 11 or 12 years of age.

HPV vaccine is available through doctors and at school-based clinics through Vaccinate Before You Graduate.

Get screened for cervical cancer

Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer.more

What we are doing

The Office of Immunization supplies HPV vaccine to healthcare providers throughout Rhode Island. Additionally, the Office of Immunization partners with the Wellness Company to make HPV vaccine available at school-based clinics through Vaccinate Before You Graduate.

Publications & Resources