NORFOLK, Va. — HPV, also known as Human Papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There’s been an increase in cases in Hampton Roads, according to medical experts.
Stacy Williams, a physician assistant with American Family Care in Norfolk, says the test starts with swab specimens from different cavities of the body. From there, the samples are sent to special labs for virus detection. These are the same labs that have been used to detect the COVID-19 virus over the last few years.
Dr. Pejman Rahimian is a biomedical scientist and the lab director for Innovative GX. It’s a health company that uses molecular testing to detect a wide range of different diseases, pathogens and viruses from COVID-19 to HPV.
“PCR methodology is 99.9% sensitive and accurate and precise compared to any of the older methods we have been using,” explained Dr. Rahimian.
Rahimian says it’s changed the way medical experts screen for viruses and bad bacteria.
“These are pathogens that are very difficult to culture like chlamydia, HPV, and Herpes. For these bacteria, we have this quick way of detecting them,” added Dr. Rahimian.
Medical professionals at American Family Care said that a virus that has been progressing for years can cause a lot of medical problems down the line.
“We see a lot of patients with HPV and what happens is it can progress to cervical cancer,” explained Williams.
However, it’s not just cervical cancer, according to Dr. Bruce Waldholtz with the American Cancer Society.
“HPV is a group of 150 viruses that are associated with six different cancers. They, however, are very preventable with HPV vaccination, but it has to be done at a young age,” explained Dr. Waldholtz.
Williams believes there are a few reasons why Hampton Roads is seeing an uptick in cases.
“I think the hookup culture among young people is something you can definitely attribute that to. But I also think this day and age, it’s really hard for patients to get in with their primary care,” said Williams.
Williams added it can also be costly.
But by having access to urgent cares, centers like AFC say that it’s helped cut down on some of the STI transmission numbers.
Dr. Waldholtz says early prevention in the form of an HPV vaccination not only helps reduce the numbers but also saves lives later on.
“Parents should start to talk to their doctors for their children for vaccination for two-dose series at age 9 to decrease the risk for six cancers,” said Dr. Waldholtz. “We have no other cancers out there where we can prevent a disease by vaccination, but for these six cancers we can.”