All adventurous women do.
I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but if you're reading this, chances are high that you're infected with HPV, the dreaded human papillomavirus. It's the cheese pizza of sexually transmitted infections. The Netflix of communicable diseases. Lena Dunham once famously claimed that most people have it, yes, "all adventurous women do." But it seems that not just adventurous ladies, but the timid, prudent, and antisocial homebodies of all genders can easily contract the cancer-causing, wart-growing virus.
A new study out of NYU Medical Center found that 69 percent (yes, that's the real figure) of healthy American adults are probably infected with HPV, literally the most common STI out there. Researchers studied the tissue of 103 healthy men and women ages 18 to 80 (because people of all ages can contract it — hello, Michael Douglas). Of that random sampling, it was found that 61 percent of participants had HPV on the skin, 30 percent in the mouth, and 17 percent in the gut. There are over 100 strains of this thing and there's no known cure. If everybody is inevitably going to get HPV, as this study and HBO millennial dramas will tell you, should we all be panicking and polishing up the chastity belts?
Probably not. The truth is, most people who have HPV (read: practically everyone) will never find out they have it or develop any symptoms or serious health problems because of it. About 80 percent of these infections are cleared out by the body's immune system, like they're a common cold.
But the other 20 percent can lead to genital warts or can cause cervical, vaginal, anal, and throat cancers. These types of less-than-innocuous infections can be prevented through vaccinations for both men and women, which is important — previous studies have shown that women are twice as likely to spread HPV, and men are seven times more likely than women to catch HPV through oral sex. The two vaccines currently on the market do a pretty good job, too; Gardasil protects against 90 percent of genital warts and Cervarix prevents the cancer causing strains in women. One important thing to note is that the CDC only recommends getting the vaccine up until age 26 for both men and women, so there's an expiration date on feeling, well, guarded. The day you get kicked off your parents' health insurance is also the day you lose the chance of protecting yourself from a good handful of strains of HPV.
So we should grow more accustomed to having straightforward, shame-free conversations about symptoms, prevention (ahem, condoms), and treatment options. After all, it looks like HPV might become the inevitable universal bedmate.
Image via HBO.