Never heard of HPV? You’re not alone

By Regence
January 09, 2023
young people

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports nearly 42 million people, including teens, are currently infected with the virus. Yet despite this staggering number, 70% of American adults have never heard of HPV and 89% have never discussed HPV with their health care provider.

HPV is associated with cervical cancer

The most common health problems related to HPV include genital warts and cervical cancer. However, HPV can cause other types of cancers. Cancer can take years to develop and, in the meantime, those who don’t know they’re infected can pass the virus to others.

HPV is typically spread by skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the infection. This may be one reason why some parents are hesitant about giving their preteen the HPV vaccine. In addition to the lack of awareness about what diseases the vaccine can prevent, it may seem their child is too young to get the vaccine.

The key is to get vaccinated before exposure

For the HPV vaccine to be effective it needs to be given before kids become exposed to the virus. Unlike other vaccines that work well regardless of when they’re received, there is a window in kids’ lives where they gain the biggest benefit from being vaccinated for HPV.

The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for:

  • All preteens (including boys and girls) at age 11 or 12 years (or can start as early as age 9 years).
  • Everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.

Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years since most people in this age range have already been exposed. Visit the CDC for more information.

Lower your chances of getting HPV

There are a lot of vaccines for infectious diseases, but this is a vaccine for cancer. If kids aren’t protected against HPV early in childhood, it puts them at risk for disease in their adult life. That’s why it's important to get the HPV vaccine when it’s recommended. In addition to getting vaccinated, it’s important for women aged 21 to 65 to get routine screenings for cervical cancer.

We're here to help

Regence health plans cover the cost of HPV vaccines and cervical cancer screenings when members see an in-network provider. Members can sign in to their account at to learn about their health plan benefits, search for in-network providers and more. We’re also available to help online through live chat and the message center, or members can call us at the number listed on their Regence member ID card.