Once you are sexually active, it's more likely than not you'll contract some form of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, during your lifetime. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of viruses that infects more than 6.2 million American men and women each year. About 40 of the more than 100 varieties are transmitted through sexual contact. There is no cure for HPV, but most infections clear without treatment in mere months. There are, however, several high-risk strains that can linger, causing precancerous lesions or full-blown cancer. These require immediate medical attention to control. The 40 strains of HPV that affect the genitals are passed through sexual contact. Symptoms do not need to be present to pass the virus to another person. HPV can be passed to and from the skin of the penis, vulva, or anus, as well as the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum. Since most strains have adapted to specific areas of the body, not all contact is a potential way to spread HPV. Hand-to-genital contact, for example, is unlikely to infect the hand. The most obvious symptom of genital HPV is warts. These pink or flesh-colored swellings are soft to the touch and may be flat or raised. Most genital warts are cauliflower-shaped, or lumpy, with irregular edges. Genital warts can range in size. Some people have just one or two, while others experience multiple warts in one area. More likely, however, a sufferer of genital HPV will have no symptoms of the virus at all. Whether symptoms of HPV appear or not will vary by strain. The type of genital HPV that causes warts, for example, won't also cause cancerous cells to form. But it is possible to be infected with multiple strains of genital HPV. Your doctor can easily diagnose some strains of HPV with visual observation of your warts. Other symptomless strains are tougher to discern. For women, a diagnosis of HPV is made with a Pap smear, an internal swab that is part of a normal check-up, and screens for cervical cancer. Many kinds of genital HPV cause precancerous changes in the cervical cells, prompting an abnormal result. Men, however, are out of luck when it comes to HPV screening - there are currently no tests available for them. Without any visible warts, men must rely on regular physical examinations by a doctor to spot precancerous cells and growths. Although genital HPV is a common - and often symptom-free STD - it can lead to serious health problems. For this reason, regular check-ups and smart sexual practices are vital once a person becomes sexually active. Want to learn more? Check out other videos and sources on this site for more information.