Nearly every working day, Dr. Elizabeth Poynor encounters anxious young women who come to her New York City office with an HPV diagnosis. The human papillomavirus is the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases — so common that researchers estimate most people will have some form of it in their lifetime. Young adults are especially at risk because they tend to be the most sexually active group.
And yet Poynor finds that most of her young patients — even if they've heard of a new vaccine aimed at preventing the worst kinds of HPV — know little about the virus and the harm it can do.
Many women find themselves scrambling to understand HPV after a routine Pap smear determines they have it. And that, Poynor and others say, creates angst that could be avoided with more education.