HPV Fiction: Condoms will prevent the spread of HPV
FACT: HPV is spread via skin-to-skin contact, so condoms do not protect they way they do with infections spread via bodily fluids (although they help). Additional barriers like gloves and dental dams can provide additional protection. FC2 condoms for women are another option, because they offer a bit more genital coverage than traditional condoms. Also, if you are eligible for them, HPV vaccines can offer protection against certain strains of the virus. (Female condoms aren't on everyone's radar. Learn more about them in 8 Things You Don't Know About Female Condoms.)
Fiction: An HPV diagnosis is something to be embarrassed about
FACT: First and foremost, don’t allow any STI diagnosis to make you feel embarrassment or shame. Sex educator Ashley Manta has produced some wonderful videos about dealing with the feelings that come up after the diagnosis of an STD. (You should also check out Honey, I Have Herpes.)
Finally, know that it’s not just you. A friend recently told me about giving her history to a new (and awesomely sex-positive) doctor and saying, "Oh, I forgot to put down that I’ve had HPV!! Is that a problem?" While making his notes, the doctor responded, "No, because really, who hasn’t?"
HPV is incredibly common. How common? So common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. In fact, around 79 million Americans are infected with HPV right now, while 14 million people become newly infected every year. HPV is the most common STI. It’s definitely not just you.
So that's HPV. In many cases, it's nothing to worry about. And it's never anything to be ashamed about. Practice safer sex, visit your doctor if you have concerns about HPV and, for women, have a regular pap smear if you're sexually active. Oh, and the best way to protect yourself? Learn the facts.