STI Synopsis

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Vaccines to prevent HPV are available and could eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, if access is scaled up globally

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI and the leading cause of cervical cancer, which leads to more than 311,000 deaths annually. It can also cause cancer in the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and throat and genital warts. Currently there are no treatments for the virus itself, which is why vaccination and testing are important.


Preventive HPV vaccines became available in 2006 and by the end of 2022 had been introduced into routine immunization programs in 120 countries. While introductions were initially concentrated in high income countries, in recent years the majority of new introductions have occurred in lower- and middle-income countries.

In 2021, an estimated 13 percent of adolescent girls and 4 percent of adolescent boys worldwide had been vaccinated against HPV. If this can be increased to 90 percent coverage among young women by 2030, and sustained, an estimated 45 million lives could be saved over the next century in low- and middle-income countries, where most cases of cervical cancer occur.


In the United States, the Papanicolaou (Pap) test has been the gold standard for detecting cervical cancer among people with a cervix over 30 years of age. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that first line of screening in the US be performed using molecular-based testing, which are difficult to implement in resource-limited settings because they require highly resourced laboratory facilities.

There are now multiple point of care (POC) tests and near-POC testing for HPV that can be conducted near a patient and at the site where treatment is provided, and results can be provided quickly.

In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted the Global Strategy for cervical cancer elimination. This strategy sets a global target of 90 percent of girls to be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15.”

HPV infection is extremely common among both women and men; each year, an estimated 300 million women worldwide have an HPV infection .

HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, which leads to more than 311,000 deaths annually. It can also cause cancer in the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and throat.

Safe, effective vaccines against HPV are now available. While there is no treatment for HPV itself, many of its symptoms, including genital warts and precancerous cell changes, are treatable.

Learn More:

WHO Fact Sheet on HPV Vaccine Standardization

WHO Fact Sheet on Cervical Cancer

Brisson M, Kim JK, Canfell K et al. Impact of HPV vaccination and cervical screening on cervical cancer elimination: a comparative modelling analysis in 78 low-income and lower-middle-income countries, The Lancet, Volume 395, 2020,

Bruni L, Saura-Lázaro A, Montoliu A et al. HPV vaccination introduction worldwide and WHO and UNICEF estimates of national HPV immunization coverage 2010–2019, Preventive Medicine, Volume 144, 2021, 106399, ISSN 0091-7435