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Diseases / Human Papillomavirus

Human Papillomavirus

What is it?: 

HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and is the cause of a range of conditions in both men and women, including precancerous lesions that may progress to cancer. Although the majority of HPV infections do not cause symptoms and resolve spontaneously, persistent infection with HPV may result in disease. In women, persistent infection with specific HPV types (most frequently HPV-16 and HPV-18) may lead to precancerous lesions which, if untreated, may progress to cervical cancer. HPV infection is also associated with oropharyngeal and anogenital cancers and other conditions in men and women.1

Mode of transmission: 

High number of sex partners is a salient risk factor for HPV transmission. It is estimated that the incidence of HPV infection among initially uninfected women could reach as high as 60% over a 5-year follow-up period and that the probability of HPV transmission per coital act ranged from 5% to 100% with a median of 40%.

There is no published study to support the transmission of genital HPV through toilet seats, kissing on the mouth, hugging, holding hands, poor personal hygiene, sharing food or utensils, swimming in pools or hot tubs.2


To date, the scientific evidence supports that vaccination against the HPV is effective for individual protection against HPV infections, by the genotypes covered by the respective vaccine, and thence cervical cancer. HPV vaccination is recommended to be included in the Hong Kong Childhood Immunization Programme as a public health programme for cervical cancer prevention for girls of suitable ages before sexual debut according to the prevailing recommended schedules.

HPV vaccines cannot offer a 100% full protection from cervical cancer. In this connection, regular cervical cancer screening remains an important public health strategy which should continue to be recommended to achieve a high population coverage. HPV vaccination does not replace the cervical cancer screening.2


Cervical cancer may be treated with radiotherapy, surgery, adjuvant chemotherapy or in combination according to the stage at diagnosis. When diagnosed at precancerous stage, the lesion can be effectively managed by less aggressive method.1


  1. World Health Organization. Weekly epidemiological record. Human papillomavirus vaccines: WHO position paper - May 2017. 2017;19(92):241-268.
  2. Centre for Health Protection. Joint Consensus Recommendation on the Use of 9-valent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine in Prevention of Cervical Cancer in Hong Kong. September 2018.