What is human papillomavirus (HPV)

There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Most types are harmless, don’t cause any symptoms, and go away on their own. Up to 80% of sexually active people will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some time.

Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat or genital area. There are about 40 types that affect the genital area, most will clear naturally however there are certain types that can cause genital warts. Read about genital warts and HPV on the Queensland Government website.

Other ‘high risk’ HPV types can cause cell changes that can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat. This usually takes over 10 years.

Signs and symptoms

Visible warts are an indicator of HPV infection. However, HPV infection usually has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it.

Certain types of HPV affect the cells in the cervix and can be detected by Cervical Screening Tests. Read about cervical screening on the Queensland Government website.

How it spreads

You can get HPV from:

  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • sharing sex toys.

The virus is usually passed from person to person without signs or symptoms. We don't how long a person with HPV is infectious for. The risk of HPV transmission from mother to baby during labour and birth is extremely low.


Preventing the spread of HPV involves being vaccinated, practising safe sex, and having regular Cervical Screening Tests.

  • The HPV vaccine protects against the 9 types of HPV that are the most common causes of cervical cancer, genital cancer, and genital warts.
  • Women aged 25 to 70 should have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years to check for the presence of HPV and any changes to the cells of the cervix.
  • Use condoms, dental dams and gloves during sex.

Having safe sex doesn't completely remove the risk, as the virus can be present on other parts of your body. The Cervical Screening Test is not a test for other sexually transmissible infections (STIs), only HPV.

Read about safe sex and cervical screening on the Queensland Government website.


The vaccine is free for everyone as part of the Queensland School Immunisation Program.

If you're aged under 26 and haven't had the vaccine, you can get a single dose from your GP or other vaccination service provider. If you have a weak immune system, you'll need to have 3 doses. Check with your GP or other vaccination service provider if this applies to you.

People usually get infected soon after they become sexually active, so the vaccine isn't given to people over 26. If you're over 26 and want to have the vaccine, talk to your GP.

Don't get the vaccine if you're pregnant. You can have it when you're breastfeeding.

Read more about when you should get vaccinated.


There's no cure for HPV infection, and in most people, the virus is naturally cleared within 1–2 years.

Genital warts can be treated by freezing or laser treatment. Treating warts as soon as they appear can help reduce the spread of the virus. If you have genital warts, or think you've got HPV, see your GP.

Find out more

For more information about vaccination, contact your health provider or call 13 HEALTH(13 43 25 84) .

Find an vaccination provider

Information in your language

You can find information about vaccination in your language on the  Queensland Government website.

Last updated: July 2023