International HPV Awareness Day



A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Officer, Women's Health, Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO); Dr. Celeste Loewe, Medical Officer, Health & Wellness, OCMO; and Sara Pyke, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Office of the Chief Nursing Officer

HPV Awareness Day is on March 4th, and we are pleased to share information and resources on how we can better prevent and detect cancers caused by HPV infection. It's wonderful to know there is much we can do to protect each other.

It's not every day that we have the opportunity to eliminate a type of cancer, but that's exactly what is possible with cervical cancer, which is almost always caused by HPV infection. By working together to get immunized and following screening and follow-up recommendations, we can prevent HPV infections—or at least catch and treat them before they become cancerous.

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It's easily passed from one person to the next through sexual activity, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. In fact, three out of four sexually active people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives.

Most people who become infected with HPV don't know they have it, because the body's immune system often gets rid of the infection naturally—within about two years. However, in some people, an HPV infection does not clear on its own.

If left untreated, an HPV infection can cause normal cells to turn into abnormal cells that may develop into cancer. In addition to being responsible for nearly 100 per cent of cervical cancers, HPV is responsible for about 80 to 90 per cent of anal cancers, 40 per cent of vaginal and vulvar cancers, 40 to 50 per cent of penile cancers, 25 to 35 per cent of mouth and throat cancers, and over 90 per cent of genital warts.

Working to end HPV-related cancers

The best way to protect yourself and others is to get the HPV vaccine. HPV vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing infection and HPV-related cancers. Talk to your health care provider and consider your individual factors such as age and sexual activity.

The vaccine is part of the routine immunization program in BC for children in Grade 6, and is free for people up to 19 years of age. As well, males born between January and June 2005 have until June 30, 2024 to receive the free vaccine.

Two-Spirit, transgender, and non-binary people between 19 and 26 years of age can also access the free HPV vaccine in BC. You can learn more about HPV vaccinations on our website or at ImmunizeBC. You can also visit our partner's websites supporting Two-Spirit health at the Community-Based Research Centre or HiM.

In addition to getting vaccinated, it is also important to complete screening for cervical cancer through the new cervix self-screening test or a Pap test. This will ensure HPV infection is caught early, before it develops into cancer. Cervix screening is recommended for anyone with a cervix, including women and TTGD (Two-Spirit, transgender and gender diverse) people between the ages of 25 and 69.

Help us spread the word

As more and more people become aware of the importance of getting vaccinated against HPV and uptake of vaccination increases, we know HPV rates will decline.

Educating ourselves and others about HPV and cancer is the first step to reducing our risk. Learn more about the information and resources available to you and your loved ones.​

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