Can genital HPV infection be prevented?

Using condoms can reduce your risk of getting a genital human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. You can also be vaccinated against some types of HPV.

Using a condom

Using a condom during sex can help to prevent an HPV infection. However, condoms don't offer complete protection. HPV can be present all over the area around your genitals and anus, and is spread through skin-to-skin contact of the genital area – not just penetrative sex.

If you've been treated for genital warts (which are caused by HPV), you should use a condom for 3 to 6 months after your treatment finishes. This may reduce the risk of passing the virus on to your partner if they haven't already been exposed.

HPV vaccination

All girls aged 12-13 are offered a vaccination against HPV to help protect them against types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. The vaccination also helps to protect against the more common types of HPV that cause genital warts.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) up to and including the age of 45 are eligible for free HPV vaccination on the NHS when they visit GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics and HIV clinics in England.

This is because MSM have an increased risk of developing HPV-associated cancers, such as anal cancer or cancer of the penis.

Read more about HPV vaccination.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 07/08/2018
Next review due: 07/08/2021