If I have HPV can I still get the HPV vaccine?
- How do I know if I have HPV?
- Can men get a test for HPV?
- What does “HPV positive” mean and what are abnormal cells?
- High-risk HPV was found during my cervical screening. Should I get the HPV vaccine?
- Can you catch HPV more than once?
- Who is eligible for a free HPV vaccine?
- Who shouldn’t get the HPV vaccine?
- Get the HPV vaccine with Online Doctor
Reviewed by our clinical team
HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is a common virus that you can catch from a partner during sex. Most of the time, HPV is harmless and is cleared by your system without causing any symptoms or complications. However, sometimes it causes cell changes that can lead to cancer – this is why a HPV vaccine was developed.
The HPV vaccine is part of a free NHS immunisation programme and is routinely offered to boys and girls in school, as well as some adults. If you’re concerned about HPV, you can protect yourself by getting the HPV vaccine – either as part of the free NHS programme or privately through a service like Online Doctor.
You can benefit from the HPV vaccine even if you have HPV or have had it in the past. However, the vaccine won’t “cure” your body of the virus – instead it will protect you from getting HPV again in the future. Read on to learn more.
How do I know if I have HPV?
Currently, the only way to know if you have HPV is to have a cervical screening – a procedure that’s only available to women and people with cervixes. It looks for certain types of HPV known as “high-risk” strains that are most likely to cause cancer.
During a cervical screening, your cervix is swabbed by a doctor or nurse – this swab is then checked for strains of high-risk HPV. Most people who get a cervical screening won’t have high-risk HPV in their sample; those who do may need another procedure to check their cervix.
Can men get a test for HPV?
HPV testing is generally only available for women and people with cervixes – this includes trans men and non-binary people with a cervix.
What does “HPV positive” mean and what are abnormal cells?
An HPV positive result after a cervical screening means there was high-risk HPV found on your sample. When HPV is found, the sample is checked again to see if any abnormal cell changes have occurred.
There are two different types of HPV positive result:
- With abnormal cells
- Without abnormal cells
Abnormal cells on the cervix mean you have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. If these cells are found, you’ll need a procedure called a colposcopy – a simple procedure where a microscope with a light is used to look at your cervix.
High-risk HPV was found during my cervical screening. Should I get the HPV vaccine?
It’s up to you! The HPV vaccine is a not a treatment for HPV, so it won’t clear the virus from your system. However, it will prepare your body to fight off any new exposures to high-risk HPV.
In addition to protecting against cervical cancer, the Gardasil 9 vaccine (the newest generation of the HPV vaccine) can also protect against:
- Anal cancer
- Cancer of the penis
- Cancer of the vulva and vagina
- Cancers of the head and neck
- Genital warts
If you do get the vaccine, you’ll need to make sure you keep attending your scheduled cervical screenings. The vaccine can provide good protection about cervical cancer, but it’s not 100% effective.
Can you catch HPV more than once?
Yes, you can catch HPV more than once.
There are about 40 different strains of HPV that affect the genitals and spread during sex; 11 of these have been identified as high-risk for cervical cancer and other types of cancer. In other words, it is possible to be infected with different types, and to be at risk of developing cancer.
It’s also thought that reinfection with the same strain of HPV can occur, as natural immunity is poor.
Who is eligible for a free HPV vaccine?
The following groups of people can get a free HPV vaccine as part of the NHS programme:
- Girls and boys in Year 8
- People under 25 who missed the vaccine in school
- Men who have sex with men (aged 45 or younger)
- Some trans women and trans me
Most adult women and people with cervixes will need to get their vaccine privately, through a service like Online Doctor.
You can check your eligibility for a free or private vaccine here.
Who shouldn’t get the HPV vaccine?
You shouldn’t get the HPV vaccine if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose, or to one of its ingredients.
You’ll also need to wait to get the vaccine if you’re currently pregnant.
Get the HPV vaccine with Online Doctor
If you’re interested in getting the vaccine but you’re not eligible for a free one, visit our HPV vaccine clinic. You can buy your vaccine online and then visit your nearest LloydsPharmacy to receive your injections.