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Sexually transmitted diseases are generally understood to be transmitted through sexual contact, though implied, is the concept of ‘disease’, generally meaning some visible sign of infection (vaginal discharge, burning on urination, pain or a sore/bump.)  With HPV, there may not be visible signs of infection, you may only learn of it because of an abnormal pap smear result.  HPV is an extremely common virus, the CDC noting that 50% of men and women may get the virus at some time in their lives.  HPV causes genital warts and cervical cancer, and can be detected early on a pap smear, without any noticeable sign of having the infection.  The CDC uses the terms sexually transmitted disease and sexually transmitted infection simultaneously, recognizing that some STD’s may be present even in the absence of any symptom.  So in answering the question is HPV a STD, I’d say it’s a sexually transmitted infection, but the general answer is still YES…condoms everyone!

Suzanne Hall, MD

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