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HPV: What Everyone Needs to Know

Did you know that HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection? It’s a virus that is spread through skin-to-skin contact. There are over 100 different types of HPV. Some cause genital warts and some can lead to cervical cancer or other types cancers. I know that sounds scary, but the good news is that the majority of types of HPV cause no health problems.


There are a lot of misconceptions about what HPV is and how you get it. Below are some important facts that everyone should know about HPV.

1.) HPV is extremely common. If fact, it’s so common most people (75%) who are sexually active have been infected with at least one type of HPV.

2.) Infections can be subclinical, meaning the virus lives in the skin without causing symptoms. This is why many people with HPV do not know they have it or that they could spread it. It can take weeks, months or years for genital warts to surface after becoming infected.

images3.) Condoms don’t always protect against the virus. Warts can grow on areas of the genitals not covered by a condom. But barriers such as condoms or dental dams can also reduce your risk of getting HPV during oral, anal, or vaginal sex.

4.) There are vaccines that protect against the types of HPV that causes most of the cases of cervical cancer and genital warts (talk to your doctor to learn more!).

5.) The most common type of cancer caused by HPV is in the cervix. It can also cause cancer in the throat, neck, vulva, penis, or anus.

6.) There is no treatment that will cure an HPV infection. Most of the time, genital HPV goes away because the immune system clears it. Image

7.) Genital warts caused by HPV often go away without treatment. There are treatments for warts, including medicine or surgery. Talk to your doctor about treatment options if you have questions or concerns.

8.) HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States.

9.) Currently, more than 20 million people are infected with HPV. Each year, more than 6.2 million new infections occur in the U.S.

10.) Most sexually active people have at least one strain of HPV. It’s safe to say that if you have had sex with more than one person OR your partner has had sex with more than one person, you have been exposed to HPV. More than 75% of sexually active people are infected with HPV at some point in their lives; some studies suggest that more than 80 percent of women will have HPV by age 50.

11.) There are more than 100 different strains of HPV; most do not cause cancer. The different strains are divided into high-risk (cancer-causing potential) and low-risk. Two of the high-risk strains (Type 16 and 18) account for 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. Two other strains (Type 6 and 11) account for 90 percent of genital warts cases.

12.) More than 99 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide, resulting in 500,000 diagnoses and 240,000 deaths each year. In 2007, an estimated 11,100 cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. and 3,700 women, or 10 per day, will die.

2fe739a94cf29d83a7dfb698840f084a13.) Routine Pap smears can virtually eliminate a woman’s chance of developing invasive cervical cancer. Of women who receive routine Pap smears, 35 percent will have at least one abnormal Pap and 25 percent will have CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia), a precursor to cervical cancer. With treatment, less than one percent of these women will reach the point of developing invasive cervical cancer.

14.) HPV causes 100% of genital warts cases. Genital warts are not cancerous, and consist of soft, white or flesh-colored clusters on the genitals. They can be treated through cryosurgery (which kills the cells by freezing), acid treatment (which kills the cells by burning), or topical cream. Around one million new cases occur each year in the U.S.


15.) The new HPV vaccine Gardasil is now widely available Gardasil is the only HPV vaccine currently available in the United States. It prevents infection by four of the highest-risk strains of HPV, causing 70% of all cervical cancer cases and 90% of all genital warts cases. It is given in three injections over a period of six months and is recommended for women and girls age 9-26, and men and boys aged 11-21. Women who are uninsured or underinsured and between the ages of 19 and 26 are eligible to receive the vaccine for free through the Merck Assistance Program.

16.) Gardasil only prevents future infection; it does not “cure” current infection. Gardasil will not affect any current HPV infection in women. It will only guard against future infection. Women who have been diagnosed with HPV may still receive Gardasil; even if they already have one of the four strains Gardasil prevents, they will still be protected from the remaining three strains.


World AIDS Day Events Happening Now

While we were gorging on wings at Buffalo Wild Wings to support CAP on December 1st, World AIDS day happened. But don’t worry! It’s not over yet. If you missed out on the World AIDS Day wing-fest, there’s still a bunch of events going on all around Portland to acknowledge the awesomeness that is World AIDS Day.

But first, let’s look at exactly how awesome World AIDS Day is. We have this specific day every year to really look at the facts, remember those we have lost, and put our knowledge to action. Starting in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day. Since then this has been the day to increase awareness and education in our communities.ImageSo in honor of World AIDS Day amazingness, CAP and other local organizations have a bunch of events going on. Here’s all the great stuff you can do:

December 4th: Check out the World AIDS Day Fundraising Breakfast put on by the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon HIV Day Center. It starts at 7:20AM and it’s happening at Concordia University’s NE campus (Second Floor Hagen Center, 2811 NE Holman).

December 5th: Starting at 9AM the Cascade AIDS Project archives will be displayed in the boardroom of the Multnomah Building for the day. Check out pieces including those from Vaughn Frick, HIV activist and cartoonist, and ACT UP propaganda. At 5PM the PSU Association of African Students and A6 are putting on a World AIDS Day Awareness and Fashion Show at the Portland State University Smith Center Ballroom. The event will begins promptly at 5PM with a free dinner, resource fair, and HIV testing. The awareness event and fashion show will run from 6 – 8PM. Everyone is invited to attend! But wait there’s more… If you miss the CAP archives, come to Pivot for a First Thursday art viewing featuring Vaughn Frick, the legendary artist and leader whose iconic comic illustrations helped tell the story of HIV/AIDS. As Art Director of the San Francisco Sentinel newspaper during early 1980s, and later as a cartoonist for Seattle Gay News, Vaughn has been instrumental in creating media for ACT-UP Portland and other political causes. Viewing starts at 6PM and ends at 9PM.

December 6th-8th: Come check out the HIV Film Festival at the Clinton Street theatre! Each film costs $5, get the Sunday combo for $8, or get a three day pass for $15. All proceeds benefit CAP!

02-fifty-objects-slide-GM3B-slideFilm Fest Schedule: Friday, December 6 at 7:00, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect. Saturday December 7 at 7:00, Tales of the Night Fairies. Five sex workers — four women and one man — along with the filmmaker/narrator, embark on a journey of storytelling. The film explores the power of collective organizing and resistance while reflecting upon contemporary debates around sex work. The simultaneously expansive and labyrinthine city of Calcutta forms the backdrop for the personal and musical journeys of storytelling. Sunday December 8 at 3:30, Miss HIV. The film explores the international collision of HIV/AIDS policies while following the journey of two HIV-positive women who enter a pageant in Botswana. What is happening in Botswana, where half of all pregnant women are HIV positive, is set contrasted with the past successes of Uganda, which has experienced one of the largest reductions in HIV infections ever recorded. Sunday December 8 at 7:00, Rent. Set in New York City’s gritty East Village, the revolutionary rock opera RENT tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to live and pay their rent. “Measuring their lives in love,” these starving artists strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty, illness and the AIDS epidemic. RENT is based on Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer and Tony Award winning musical, one of the longest running shows on Broadway.

For more details check Wear those ribbons proud!


At Cascade AIDS Project, one of our primary missions is to eliminate the stigma that is associated with HIV. Stigmas are often negative, hurtful and most of the time, not even true – they can turn any subject into breeding grounds for adversity and hostility.

Stigmas are like stains on beloved t-shirts, but they aren’t wine stains or stains from blackberry picking that you know how to remove. They are the stains that have no origin – they’re overwhelmingly ugly and seem to stick on no matter how many times you wash them. Sometimes they may fade, but everybody knows they’re still there.

So away with stains and stigmas, we say! And fortunately, we are not alone. Image

Based out of Norwalk, Connecticut, the World Health Clinicians, a non-profit based out of Connecticut, has started a new campaign focused on eliminating the HIV stigma called HIV Equal.

The goal of HIV Equal is to show that everyone’s status, whether negative or positive, is irrelevant – what’s important is that we all have a status, and that we know it. Hence, we’re all HIV Equal. The media of the campaign is photographs; people who support HIV Equal wear an HIV = sticker on their body and are then photographed – this is to illustrate that all statuses are created equal. But, there is one tricky and kind of awesome catch to this campaign: in order to get your photo taken, you have to be tested on site first. A founder of HIV Equal explains, “”HIV Equal goes a step further to include testing so that everyone photographed knows their status. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, as well as to reignite the global conversation about HIV to stop the spread of misinformation, fear and judgment.” Like I said, a tricky little test that is incredibly deep in meaning.

After the photo is taken, people can describe their status, which appears in the bottom corner of the photograph as status = (fill in the blank here). You can put in any word you want, as long as it doesn’t say negative or positive; the campaign wants you to think more along the lines of what makes you an individual. Are you flawless? Crazy? Optimistic? You choose.

The campaign so far has created a nifty video (found in the link below), as well as created a multimedia campaign found on their website (, their twitter page (@HIVequal) and is planning on traveling the country to photograph and test more people.

That’s right you guys, this campaign is basically a fabulous, on the road photo shoot that Imageprovides HIV testing. It’s like, get tested, get a photo – how glam/AWESOME is that? I also haven’t told you that the campaign is being run by Jack Mackenroth, a Project Runway alumni.


There are literally so many great aspects of this campaign – things I haven’t even started to mention, like a celebrity photographer, drag queens, impassioned doctors AND the color magenta. Magenta. Yes, so all the while working hard to create the image of HIV Equal, Mackenroth and his counterparts are also using magenta as their signature campaign color. I am dizzy with excitement.

So what should we do next? Well, you should probably read the article about HIV Equal written up by PR Newswire and then watch the campaign video. You should probably also head on over to the and read more about the mission and see all of their photos. Finally, you should tweet at them to come to Portland. Seriously.

ImageHere’s to magenta, getting rid of the stigma and everything in between.

Oh, and here’s the link to the article, duh:

Reduce Your Risk, Not Your Pleasure

Condoms! Condoms! Condoms! Okay, at this point we all know that the safest way to sex someone up is with protection. Remember that painful demonstration with the banana in your 6th grade health class? Even though it was ridiculously unpleasant, the banana taught us how important it is to use condoms correctly to avoid spreading or contracting STIs. Don’t know if you’re using condoms correctly? Check out this quick video from Planned Parenthood…


Yeah, so condoms are awesome. With perfect use they can be up to 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. And according to the National Institutes of Health, they can up to 85% effective in preventing HIV infections!

But what can you do when you’re in the heat of the moment and there’s no condom to be found? Well, there is a whole menu of sex acts that carry little to no risk for HIV or STI transmission. They include: mutual masturbation, penetration with sex toys (no sharing!), showering together, or rubbing your junk against healthy, unbroken skin. Check out the complete list at

ImageHowever, if unprotected intercourse is inevitable there are some ways to reduce your risk of contracting or spreading HIV. But first let’s go over the basics of HIV transmission… First off, HIV has to be present. That means someone had to have been exposed to the virus AND they would have had to contract it in order to potentially spread the virus. Second, there needs to be enough of the virus present. For example, blood can carry a lot of virus, while breast milk does not, so getting blood in an open wound or orifice is going to be much riskier. The fluids that transmit HIV are blood, semen (including pre-cum), breast milk, and vaginal and anal secretions. And lastly, HIV needs to get into the bloodstream for infection to take hold. That means there needs to be a pathway for the virus to get in your body. Skin acts as an awesome barrier! But HIV can enter through open cuts or sores or contact with mucous membranes.

Basically, there are a couple ways in which HIV infection can occur: unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex, direct blood contact (like sharing needles), and mother to baby (through birth or through breast milk).

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here are some ways to reduce the risk of transmission if you’re going to have sex and you don’t have a condom:

Image1) LUBE! Lube is awesome because it can help reduce friction and it helps prevent things like anal tearing, which creates a pathway for HIV to get into your body. But make sure you’re not using a spermicidal lube because the chemicals in these types of lubricants can actually increase the risk for transmission. Basically, the wetter the better!

**But if you are using latex condoms (awesome!), stay away from oil based lubes and products! The oil in lubes and products like baby oil, petroleum jelly, and oil based lubes weaken latex making more likely that the condom will tear.

2) PULL OUT! Don’t blow your load in or around open sores, cuts, or membranes (yes, this means eyes too). Semen has the potential to carry lots of virus, so pulling out works to disrupt the pathway. However, there is still virus present in pre-cum (if your partner is HIV+), so there is still a risk but pulling out reduces it!

Image3) PUT DOWN THAT DOUCHE! Douching can irritate the lining of butts and/or front-butts (for the ladies), which makes it more likely for infection to take place. Similarly, don’t brush or floss your teeth less than two hours before or after preforming oral sex. This can cause little cuts and tears in your gums which also create a pathway for HIV infection.

4) GET TESTED! Having an STI makes it easier to contract HIV and vice-versa. ALL STIs are manageable and most are curable! Get tested regularly to better manage your sexual health.


As always, give us a holler if you have questions or want to chat. Call the Oregon HIV/STI Hotline at 800.777.2437, text us at 503.946.6202, or chat online with our live chat feature at

Now you can Text us your questions!

Now you can Text us your questions about HIV & STIs!

It’s free, fast and honest.

If you can tell me what monkeys and cats have in common, I will give you $10.00

What do cats and monkeys have in common? Okay, yes, the cute factor is obvious – kittens and baby monkeys do easily rival each other for being the most adorable mammals on the planet. However, I’m talking about a similarity that isn’t played out among GIFs or your friend’s facebook wall – HIV.

On our breaks here at CAP, many of us surf the interwebs to find new and interesting stuff about HIV and AIDS research, and last week I was sent a couple of articles with the following titles of “Cats Could Lead the Way to an HIV Vaccine” and “5 Interesting Facts How Cats and Monkeys May Help Unlock Functional HIV Cure or Vaccine.”

Yes, these are real articles. They are real articles that are based off scientific research, despite the fact that one was written by a certified cat lady, and the other article has a link to a “Shocking New Testosterone Booster” at the bottom of its page. My advice would be to not get deterred by manly bylines and unique author bios, but to actually read each of the articles (I have posted the links at the bottom of the page so that you don’t have to worry about possible awkward internet searches).

Nonetheless, if reading through scientific articles isn’t your thing at the moment, no worries; I’ll give you the rundown here and provide you with an answer to the question and title of this blog (I will not, however, give you ten dollars. It’s not like you actually knew the answer). Here goes nothing.

Basically, despite the fact that HIV is a virus that only affects humans, it has sister viruses; these sister viruses, known as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) affect primates and cats in the same way that HIV affects humans.

Okay, so different species can get forms of HIV. Where’s the significance in that?

The significance comes from the research – a five year study done on monkeys by OHSU (shout out to Portland!) revealed that after giving monkeys a new drug that only gives 50% protection against SIV, half the monkeys used in the study were able to clear out their version of the HIV virus completely. This new drug is pretty groundbreaking (it was talked about at the annual AIDS Vaccine Conference this year), and will probably continue to undergo studies before being tested on humans.

Secondly, researchers from the University of Florida and the University of California San Francisco discovered that the protein found in the FIV produces an immune response in the blood of HIV positive people. Researchers are now working on developing a T-cell based vaccine for HIV that would potentially induce the body to produce proteins that could kill the HIV-infected cells; this would be achieved because the T-cell based vaccine would activate an immune response against the FIV – the immune response produces proteins!

It’s okay if you had to read that twice/look it up on the internet, I did too.

Basically, the technology for fighting HIV is on the rise and its army is composed of cats and monkeys with some help from doctors and other medical institutions. We are learning more and more about HIV every day, and it is these experiments (as crazy as they sound) that are real steps of progress to figuring out how to stop the virus and find its cure.

So, next time you’re at the zoo, thank the chimps, and next time you find yourself next to a cat, give it cat nip. We owe them quite a lot for contributing to the fight against HIV.



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