Asghar: HPV stigma must end

Mohammad Asghar AM is supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to tackle the myths and stigma around the common virus HPV and get the facts out.

Last year the cervical screening programme in Wales moved to test for HPV[1] first, a far more sensitive test will save lives but also means many more women will be told they have HPV. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is running its #SmearForSmear campaign during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20-26 January) to tackle the misconceptions about the virus. 

In the majority of cases, HPV infection goes away without doing the body any harm. Sometimes it causes cells to change which, if not treated, could develop into cervical cancer. Testing for HPV is a far more accurate test estimated to prevent almost 500 diagnoses of cervical cancer every year in the UK[2].

Mohammad Asghar and the UK’s cervical cancer charity want as many people as possible to understand the importance of cervical screening and to feel informed and comfortable when they get their results.


New research[3] conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found a third of women consider HPV a taboo topic and would not want anyone to know if they had it. A quarter haven’t heard of HPV and one in five would feel embarrassed if they were told they had the virus. Calls to the charity’s Helpline about HPV have already risen 50% over the past year. It is expecting this to significantly rise as more women are tested for HPV and is calling on health professionals to be prepared for increases in questions from patients and encouraging open conversation.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust: “HPV can be confusing but it is nothing to be ashamed of. 80% of us will get at least one type of HPV in our lives and in most cases the immune system will get rid of the infection without it causing any harm. We need to get the facts out about HPV and get rid of harmful myths and stigma around this really common virus.” 

About Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and #SmearForSmear

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 20-26 January 2019. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is running its #SmearForSmear campaign. The popular smear test awareness campaign has seen support from celebrities including Kate Beckinsale and Cara Delevingne and this year the campaign is asking people to help smear the myths and get the facts out about HPV and smear tests. It is asking people to share a lipstick smear, smear their own myth or share one of the campaign materials.

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About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity. It provides information and support to anyone affected and campaigns for excellence in cervical cancer treatment, care and prevention. Its national Helpline is free, confidential and on 0808 802 8000


HPV facts

  • At some point in our lives, 4 out of 5 (80%) of us will get at least one type of HPV. In most cases the immune system will get rid of it. Around 90% of HPV infections clear within 2 years
  • HPV infections do not usually have any symptoms, so you may not even know you had it.
  • HPV lives on our skin, so it is easy to get and difficult to completely protect against.
  • There are over 200 types of HPV. About 40 HPV types affect the genital areas
  • Most genital HPV types are low risk. They can cause conditions like genital warts
  • About 13 HPV types are linked to cervical cancer. These types are called high-risk HPV.
  • You are at risk of getting HPV from your first sexual contact, whatever that is – it doesn’t have to be penetrative sex
  • We can have HPV for a long time without knowing about it, so it is hard to know when we got HPV or who we got it from
  • Cervical screening (a smear test) can find a high-risk HPV virus and changes early, before it develops into cancer.
  • For more information:





[3] Survey of 2,034 Women aged 18 and over. Collected between 9.12.19-12.12.19 by Censuswide on behalf of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust