Impact of Current HPV infections


Human papillomavirus infections have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. To date there is an estimated one million new cases reported each year, and it has been reported that 60 percent of United States college students are infected. Dr. Steven Curry of New England Medical Center stated that, "This virus is rampant. If it were not for AIDS, stories about it would be on the front pge of every newspaper."

In addition to the prevalence of the virus, HPV is almost unpreventable. There is definitely a correlation between factors such as condom use, number of sexual partners and the sexual history of those partners. These issues can all reduce the risk of acquiring the disease. However, nothing safe of abstinence can really protect against HPV. This is because most HPV infections are subclinical; as many as 80% of infected persons are not aware of their status, and are experiencing no outbreaks. Also, the continuing incidence of HPV infections suggests that condom use is not particularly effective. Viral shedding can often take place outside the surface of condom protection. Clinicians such as Dr. Thomas Sedlacek have stated that, "Condoms are useless in preventing HPV transmission."

Like other papovaviruses, HPV is also posing special problems for the immunosuppressed. The epidemic is effecting them at an even more aggressive wrath. HIV-positive and other immunocompromised individuals are seroconverting at higher rates than their immuno-compotent counterparts and their chances of developing rapid malignant cell transformation is also increased.

For all these reasons, HPV infection and its implications on future cancer incidence, is of growing conern to the medical community. Some fear that if the current incidence rates are not controlled, genital cancers could reach epidemic proportions in upcoming years. In response to this worry, there are earnest attempts at developing vaccines both for preventative and theraputic purposes.