Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection among U.S. military members.
According to research published in the Military Surveillance Monthly Report, the “Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection among U.S. military members.” (1)
The researchers examined the annual incidence of diagnoses of genital warts (GW) among U.S. service members before and after the availability of the quadrivalent HPV (HPV4) vaccine in 2006.
According to this same study, “Incidence rates of GW diagnoses markedly declined among female service members in the HPV4 vaccine-eligible age range from 2007 (following introduction of the HPV4 vaccine) through 2010.”
Interestingly, the authors of the study went on to report that, in contrast, “among women 25 years and older and men of all age groups, annual rates of GW diagnoses remained relatively low and stable from 2000 through 2010. The higher rates of diagnoses of GWs among female than male service members reflect the effects of routine periodic gynecologic screening. Slight increases in the incidence of GW diagnoses among men between 2010 and 2012 may in part reflect the repeal of the U.S. military’s ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy.”
According to the CDC, HPV is actually the most common sexually transmitted infection in the general population. In fact, over 20 million people in the U.S. are infected with the Human Papillomavirus. Since HPV is transmitted through any skin-to-skin contact, one can get infected without having sex. (2)
That’s why many young people in the army call HPV, “stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms.”
Authors of another study pointed out that “An HPV infection can also spread from one part of the body to another.”
For example, “an HPV infection might start in the genitals and then spread to the anus. It can be very hard to avoid being exposed to HPV. It might be possible to prevent genital HPV infection by not allowing others to have contact with your anal or genital area, but even then there could be other ways to become infected that aren’t yet clear. Having multiple sex partners increases the risk of infection with HIV and HPV.” (3)
The CDC again notes that “You can get HPV by having oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected making it hard to know when you first became infected.” (2)
“There are no drugs approved against the HPV. Current treatments include procedures, such as cryotherapy, conization, and the Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). These procedures use liquid nitrogen, a surgical knife (scalpel), a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, or electrical current to remove the abnormal growths caused by the HPV. These growths include cells that harbor the active virus. The procedures do not target cells with the latent virus. Since they do not remove the latent virus, these procedures only produce a temporary remission.” (4)
The question then becomes, should military personnel simply rely on the HPV vaccine for protection, or should there be educational courses designed to help soldiers change, or at least be more aware of consequences that result from, their sexual behavior?
(1) Nsouli-Maktabi H1, Ludwig SL, Yerubandi UD, Gaydos JC. “Incidence of genital warts among U.S. service members before and after the introduction of the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine.” MSMR. 2013 Feb;20(2):17-20.
(2) CDC.gov – Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – Page last updated: March 26, 2015
(3) Cancer.org – Anal Cancer. Last Revised May 2, 2014.
(4) Polansky H, Itzkovitz E. Gene-Eden-VIR Is Antiviral: Results of a Post Marketing Clinical Study. Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 2013, 4, 1-8