Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The incidence of this infection has been on the rise in recent times. It is estimated that approximately 6 million new HPV infections are acquired each year in the United States alone, and prevalence data suggest that as many as 24 million American adults 'that is, 1 in 5' may be infected with HPV. Unfortunately, there is little public awareness and knowledge about the infection and its sequelae. It is well known that more than 90% of cases of anogenital warts are caused by HPV. HPV has been implicated in cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx. The virus is a necessary cause of cervical cancer. HPV DNA is detected in almost 100% of cases of cervical cancer.
There have been major strides in recent years in the prevention of this infection and consequently, of diseases related to it. Vaccines are available and licensed in some countries. Two HPV vaccines are available: a quadrivalent (HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18) vaccine and a bivalent (HPV types 16 and 18) vaccine. Both vaccines show a more than 90% protection against persistent HPV infection for up to 5 years after vaccination. The role of the vaccine in males is still controversial.
The vaccination cost, however, is beyond the reach of many individuals in developing countries where 80% of cervical cancer cases of are found. Many countries in Africa are battling with HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal mortality, and childhood illness. Nevertheless, with increased awareness, political will, and engagement by pharmaceutical countries, HPV vaccines may become affordable in these countries.