Human papillomavirus (HPV) factsheet


Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of common viruses that spread through skin-to-skin contact with a person who is infected. 

Some types of HPV are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). An STI is an infection or disease that spreads through sexual contact. 

Sexual contact can include any contact between body parts like the:

  • penis
  • vagina
  • anus
  • hands
  • mouth.

These types of HPV are very common and affect anyone who has ever had any sexual contact. 

 Signs and symptoms

Many people who have HPV will not have any symptoms.
Some types of HPV can cause warts to grow on the body, particularly on and around body parts used in sexual contact like the:

  • anus
  • penis
  • vagina
  • vulva.

Warts are small, hard, raised lumps on the skin. They can have a lumpy appearance and look lighter than the rest of the skin. Warts can grow on their own or in groups and spread to different body parts.

Other types of HPV may not cause any noticeable symptoms, but they can cause abnormal cells to grow, increasing the risk of some cancers.

These cells are most likely to grow in the cervix. The cervix is the small passage that connects the end of the vagina to the uterus. The uterus is also known as the womb.

Your teenager should see their local doctor or sexual health clinic if they have had sexual contact and have symptoms like:

  • unusual bleeding or discharge from the vagina, anus, or penis
  • pain during sexual contact
  • lumps, pain or itching around the vagina, anus, or penis.


Your local doctor or sexual health clinic can diagnose HPV. 


HPV cannot be cured, so treatment focuses on: 

preventing the spread of the virus with the HPV vaccine

education about safe sex

managing symptoms

screening for abnormal cells that can cause cancer.

HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine, also known as Gardasil, helps protect against the types of HPV that cause more than 95% of related cancers and 90% of genital warts.

This vaccine works best when given before a teenager has sexual contact for the first time. It is free and recommended for all children and teenagers aged 12-25 in NSW.

Your teenager can access the HPV vaccine from places like:

  • school, as part of the NSW vaccination program
  • your local doctor
  • some pharmacies.

Before having the vaccine, your teenager will need to tell the doctor or nurse if they:

  • feel unwell
  • have any allergies
  • are taking any medications
  • are having any treatments that affect the immune system, like chemotherapy
  • are pregnant.

Serious side effects from vaccination are rare, but your teenager may have:

  • mild fever
  • nausea
  • headache
  • tenderness around the injection site.

Speak to your local doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine.

Education around safe sex

Talking to your teenager about safe sex can help lower the spread of HPV.

Safe sex can include:

  • using barrier protection like internal and external condoms or dams
  • having regular sexual health checks with your local doctor or clinic
  • communicating with partners about sexual health and consent.

Removal of warts

Warts are treated by slowly removing the growth. Speak to your local doctor before starting any wart treatments.

Common wart treatments can include:

  • over-the-counter medications or treatments that can be used at home
  • prescription treatments and creams
  • prescription medications to boost the immune system and fight the virus.

If these treatments don't work, your local doctor may suggest a procedure to remove the wart.

This could include:

  • cryotherapy - freezing the wart
  • electrocautery - burning with an electrical current
  • surgical removal
  • laser removal.

Cervical Screening Test

The cervical screening test (CST) checks for abnormal cells that can lead to cancer.

The test can be done:

  • by your doctor using a swab on the cervix
  • using a self-test, taking a swab of your vagina in the doctor's office. 

The national cervical screening program is available for any person over the age of 25 who has:

  • a cervix
  • ever had sexual contact.

Speak to your local doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your teenager and the cervical screening program.

Last updated Wednesday 15th May 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024