There are two main ways to prevent genital warts from developing. Like any protection from sexually transmitted infections, use of condoms should be regular practice for sexually active individuals, but there is also a vaccine available for genital warts.
Condom use is vital
Using either male or female condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex is a great way to prevent the development of genital warts, but note that they are not 100 per cent effective. This is because the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the genital wart infection, is spread through skin contact and so it is possible for the skin around the genital area which is not covered by the condom to become infected. Even if you are just having oral sex, you should cover the penis with a condom.
Alternatively, you can adopt a dental dam around the female genitals or anal area. The dam, which is usually available from a GUM clinic, is a latex or polyurethane square that offers protection.
If you are using sex toys, try and not share them, or if you choose to, wash them and cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.
Beyond just genital warts, condoms will protect you from a variety of infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV.
The vaccine is an option
There is the Gardasil vaccine available, that protects individuals against two HPV strains, known to cause around 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases in England, and another two strains which cause 90 per cent of genitla warts, according to the NHS.
Gardasil is actually not a new vaccine as it was first licensed in 2006 and around 80 million doses have been given out across the world since. The vaccine replaced Cervarix in England in September 2012, as the vaccine which is given to girls aged 12-13. Even though Cervarix was effective against HPV types 16 and 18, which can cause cervical cancer, Gardasil also protects against types six and 11, the causes of HPV. Any girl aged up to 18 is eligible for the vaccine, but all boys and women aged above 18 are not covered under the immunisation programme.
The first dose is given and then the second is offered a month after, with the third being given at least three months after the second. All of the doses need to be given within a year. The injection is placed right into muscles, either in the thigh or in the upper arm. There are no real side effects to the vaccine, but there could be bruising or swelling at the injection site, and flu-like symptoms such as muscle pain and a high temperature.
The vaccine is good protection but an individual's immunity will reduce over six years, and it also will not protect you from other infections. Remember: the vaccine is not a substitute for a condom.
If you are interested in the vaccine, be sure to consult with your local doctor or GP.