In Canada, approximately 75% of sexually active people will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime, with the highest rates of HPV infection occurring in young people aged 15 to 24. HPV can lead to genital warts, and several types of cancer in both males and females. However, HPV can be prevented with vaccination.
uOttawa is hosting three HPV vaccination clinics.
Check the instructions below on how to book your appointment online.
HPV signs and symptoms
Many people who get HPV don’t even realize it, as most types of HPV don’t cause any symptoms. This means that people can pass the virus to others without knowing.
Often, genital warts are the only sign that an individual has HPV. Genital warts can appear days, weeks, months or years after contact. These growths can appear as small red or white raised bumps on the inside or outside of the sex organs. Genital warts are normally painless but can cause itching or burning. If you have atypical symptoms in the genital region such as itchiness, discomfort during intercourse, bleeding during intercourse or shaving, or cauliflower-like growths, see a doctor.
Types of cancers related to HPV
Cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal and certain head and neck cancers (e.g., throat cancer) can be caused by HPV. If you have atypical symptoms in these areas, especially bleeding, itchiness, lumps/ulcers or pain, see a doctor. The signs and symptoms of HPV-related cancers can also be caused by other health conditions. It's important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor.
Unlike some other STBBIs, HPV is a virus. Viruses can't be treated with antibiotics.
Once an individual has HPV, the immune system will clear the virus, in most people within one to two years. However, HPV infections can reoccur. The individual isn't immune to the virus.
A health-care professional may offer the option to remove lesions or genital warts using chemicals, laser surgery or freezing with liquid nitrogen, or using a cream that boosts the immune system to develop resistance against HPV. Currently, scientists don't know if or for how long HPV persists in the skin.
If you have signs and symptoms of various cancers, a health-care professional may need to conduct further examination, imaging and/or biopsies. If cancer is present, treatments will vary and can include laser surgery, microsurgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against HPV.
In Canada, HPV vaccination is approved for males from ages 9 to 26 and females from ages 9 to 45. Individuals who have had HPV are still eligible for the vaccine. The HPV vaccine provides protection from the nine HPV types that cause about 90% of cervical cancers and the two HPV types that cause over 90% of genital warts.
HPV is very contagious. An individual can contract HPV through skin-to-skin contact. This means that penetration is not necessary to contract HPV. The most common transmission is by skin-to-skin contact with the penis, scrotum, vagina, vulva, or anus of an infected person. Kissing or touching a partner’s genitals with the mouth can also transmit HPV.
It's important that we take every precaution possible to protect ourselves and our partner(s). Whether you're sexually active, have already been infected with HPV or have never heard of HPV before, there are measures you can take to protect yourself.
Other ways to help reduce your risk of contracting HPV
Be mindful of your number of sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of contracting HPV.
Use a condom. Condoms or other barriers such as an oral dam can reduce the risk of HPV infection if put on before skin-to-skin sexual contact.
Limit or quit smoking. Smoking weakens the immune system and makes it less effective in fighting against HPV infections. It's also a factor in the development of various cancers, as well as genital warts.
Cervical cancer screening. The best defence against Cervical Cancer is to have regular Pap and/or HPV tests. These tests can detect abnormal cells in the cervix that could lead to cancer.
Health exam. Although Pap and HPV tests are only available for women, men can be examined by their doctor for genital warts and signs of HPV-related cancers.
Vaccine cost and coverage
The GARDASIL 9 vaccine (which protects against HPV) is covered by provincial insurance in Ontario when students are in grade 7. If students miss the grade 7 vaccine series, they are eligible to receive them until grade 12. After this time, the GARDASIL 9 vaccine is only covered for select high-risk groups:
Men who have sex with men (MSM), who are 26 years of age or younger, and who identify as gay and/or bisexual.
Some individuals who identify as trans and who have not started their HPV vaccine series before September 5, 2017.
Note: Individuals from these groups who are born in 1993, 1994, 1995 or 1996 will remain eligible for publicly funded doses until December 31, 2023.
For provincial funding information, select other provinces or territories on the . For those who may identify with the high-risk group criteria mentioned above, you may discuss these factors with your health care provider to verify your eligibility for coverage.
When provincial coverage is unavailable, you must cover the cost of the vaccine itself, along with its administration (e.g., receiving the vaccine as an injection from a qualified health professional). The cost of the GARDASIL 9 vaccine at the is $191. There is an additional $10 fee for the administration of the vaccine, which adds up to a total of $201 per dose. As you must receive three doses to complete the vaccine series, there is a total cost of $603.
Supplemental insurance coverage
Many supplemental insurance plans will cover 80% of prescriptions and vaccines. After receiving your HPV vaccine, you will be required to pay for it, and will be provided with a receipt. You can submit this receipt to your supplemental insurance provider to request reimbursement for the covered amount.