Almost Half Of U.S. Adults Have HPV, New Data Shows

Published April 7, 2017
Published April 7, 2017

And HPV vaccination rates remain low.


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The U.S. population is divided on many things, and new research has added another source of division: Those who have human papillomavirus (HPV), and those who don’t.

Indeed, recent data cited by TIME and collected by the National Center for Health Statistics show that approximately 42.5 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 59 have HPV.

The data is drawn from the years 2013 and 2014, and surveys genital HPV prevalence. Among those with HPV, researchers found that infection incidence was lowest for Asian-American adults and highest for African-Americans. They likewise found that men had higher rates of oral and genital HPV than women.

HPV consists of a group of around 200 viruses, with some strands being more harmful than others. Indeed, some types of HPV — which the National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines as “high-risk HPVs” — can cause cancer.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it’s almost a given that a man or woman will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives — they note that more than 80 percent of sexually active men and women will contract one type of HPV — its associated risks do not have to be so high.

HPV vaccines exist and are highly effective, with researchers finding that vaccination helps lower infection rates. Still, as TIME notes, comparatively few people are using the vaccine. Just 30 to 40 percent of teens are getting the three-dose shot, and only ten percent of men have gotten immunized.

“HPV is one of the most effective vaccines we have in our immunization program,” Dr. Laurie Markowitz, who conducted a study on vaccine efficacy, told TIME. “If we had higher coverage, we would have even more impact.”

To learn more about what vaccines do and don’t do, check out our explainer on vaccine myths.

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