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HPV and Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

This page outlines the symptoms and treatment of genital warts and HPV.


The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmissible infection (STI) in the world. 

Most people will get HPV at some point in their lives. Most won’t know because they have no symptoms and for most, HPV will usually go away on its own without the need for any treatment.

There are many different types of HPV. Some forms of HPV can cause health problems such as genital warts or changes to your cells that can lead to cancer, such as cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus or throat.

There is a vaccine that can help protect you from this.

Genital warts

Genital warts are small lumps in or around the vagina, on the cervix, on the penis or scrotum, or around the anus.

Warts on other parts of the body are caused by different types of HPV and are not sexually transmitted.

HOW DO YOU GET HPV or genital warts?

You can get HPV or genital warts through close skin to skin contact, usually during sex.

Genital warts might take weeks or months to appear after having sex, or they might never appear.


Genital warts look like small skin-coloured lumps on your vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum or anus. They might be itchy.

They may also be very small and hard to see. A nurse or doctor will be able to check more closely for you.

For the type of HPV that can lead to cancer, there are usually no signs you have the infection. That’s why regular cervical screening is so important – it can catch any changes in your cervical cells and you can get treatment if you need it. Other HPV-related cancers are also more treatable if they are diagnosed early.


Genital warts will usually clear up with time, but treatment will lower the risk of passing warts on to anyone you have sex with. Some common treatments are:

  • a cream which helps the immune system fight the virus, or
  • a liquid painted on the warts which kills the infected cells, or
  • freezing with liquid nitrogen, or
  • diathermy (heat).

It might take a few visits or different treatments for it to work.


If you have genital warts, you should get them treated as they are easily spread during sex.

You should use condoms or oral dams to help reduce the spread of infection.

how can i avoid getting hpv or genital warts?

  1. Get the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is free for New Zealand residents aged between 9 and 26 and will help protect you from HPV and genital warts.
  2. Use condoms each time you have sex, especially if you are having sex with someone new or with different partners.
  3. Cervical screening every three years from age 20 to 70 will pick up any changes in the cells in your cervix, so you can get treatment if you need it.


Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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