NEWS RELEASE                                                    
Geneva, Wednesday 4 March 2020
International HPV Awareness Day on March 4th sets the human papillomavirus in the global spotlight, and that’s important.  HPV is a serious health issue associated with 1 in 20 of all cancer cases in the world.  Each year nearly half a million people die from HPV-related cancer. Many of those deaths could be prevented through access to vaccines and cervical screening programs.

Today, a global partnership of over 80 organizations, led by the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) have mobilized to raise awareness and understanding about HPV around the world.  Partners of the HPV Awareness Campaign ‘think globally and act locally,’ using social media and community events to get people of all ages and backgrounds talking about HPV, learning how it affects them and taking action to reduce their risks.

HPV infection is common. It is the world’s most prevalent sexually transmitted infection and 80% of people will contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives. Most people do not think the virus affects them and many will be unaware they have it, which increases the risk of HPV-related cancer. It’s important that we all understand and manage risks.

HPV is preventable and the cancer risks from HPV are avoidable. There are actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of HPV-related disease. Effective vaccines are available and effective for males and females.  Access to cervical screening programs can identify the virus and spot cell changes that are precursors to cancer.

The International HPV Awareness Day Campaign ‘Viral Before the Internet’ aims to empower people with the information they need to make informed choices for their health.  By speaking openly about the virus and sharing the facts, it seeks to remove the misunderstandings and stigma that often act as a barrier to obtaining appropriate healthcare, leaving people vulnerable to real risks.

“Thankfully, more and more people are making the connection between HPV and certain cancers, such as cervical cancer. That’s helping us move forward with promoting effective prevention measures to stop HPV. If we stop HPV, cancer goes down by 5%. That saves lives.” said IPVS President Prof Margaret Stanley.

In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call to action to eliminate cervical cancer, which has stimulated action from governments around the world. IPVS has issued its own policy statement calling on governments to adhere to the standards set out by WHO in relation to access to HPV prevention and screening. Around 90% of cervical cancer cases are HPV-related.

‘Quite understandably, policy and public attention have been focused on cervical cancer’ said IPVS Advocacy Chair Joel Palefsky. ‘But HPV shouldn’t just be the concern of women. The virus is carried by men as well as women, and males are also at risk of HPV-related cancers. Everyone is potentially affected by HPV – and everyone can do something to reduce the risks simply by sharing information and sparking the conversation about HPV.  Awareness and education are important first steps toward prevention.’ he concluded.

Editors notes
The ‘Viral Before the Internet’ HPV Awareness Campaign on March 4th uses popular images that have ‘gone viral’ on the internet engaging millions of people to draw attention to a real virus – HPV. This is a global campaign with information resources in multiple common languages.  Go to the campaign website to find out more. 

The International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) is the global authority on human papillomaviruses (HPV). Our mission is to contribute to the elimination of HPV-related diseases (  The HPV Awareness Campaign is an initiative of IPVS and partners. For details of national and regional campaign partners, visit For more information please contact