HPV (human papillomavirus)

In a nutshell

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is an infection caused by a virus.
  • It is transmitted:
    • during sexual intercourse whether the penis penetrates the mouth, the vagina or the anus or not;
    • during intimate contact (skin-to-skin) with an infected person whether he or she shows lesions or not;
  • This is one of the most frequent STIs in Quebec.
  • Young people between 15 and 24 are particularly affected by HPV because it is especially transmitted during the first years of sexual activity.

Symptoms and complications

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Very often, the HPV infection does not show any symptoms.

If symptoms show up, they are as follows:

  • small lumps that look like warts (condylomas) on the genital organs, around the anus and less frequently, in the mouth;
  • irritation and itching;
  • lesions invisible to the naked eye can develop in the uterine cervix.

Consequences of HPV on health

Some of these lesions can become cancerous.

Screening and treatment

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  • There are no screening tests for the infection when there are no visible lesions.
  • When lesions are present, a medical examination is used to formulate a diagnosis.

Precancerous and cancerous lesions at the level of the uterine cervix

  • Detection of these lesions is carried out by a Pap test during a gynaecological examination. The Pap test is used to screen for lesions that may indicate that a cancer could develop.


  • Most of the time, lesions and condylomas in the uterine cervix that have been caused by HIV disappear naturally within 18 months.
  • Condylomas disappearing, however, does not mean that the infection has been cured.
  • To eliminate condylomas, several treatments are possible (application of chemical products, laser or liquid nitrogen treatment, etc.).
  • There are also treatments to avoid the development of a cancer.


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  • The vaccine against HPV is offered free of charge to girls younger than 18.
  • When you have sexual intercourse, use a condom.
    • A condom must be used before any contact of the penis with the mouth, the vagina or the anus.
    • A condom must be used from start to finish of sexual intercourse.
  • Even if a condom is used, transmission continues to be possible for infected areas such as the thighs, the buttocks, the testicles, etc. In other words, the areas that aren’t covered by the condom.
  • The vaccine against HPV only protects against some types of HPV and offers no protection against other STIs.
  • Because symptoms can take a long time to appear, it is important for girls to have a Pap test regularly according to their doctor’s recommendations.

In terms of figures :

25 % of those infected with HIV don’t know they are

Getting help

To get a screening test

  • Call Info-Santé 8-1-1
  • Talk it over with the nurse in your school or CLSC
  • Talk it over with your doctor


For any
other question

Consult Tel-jeunes

Tel-Jeunes Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux