NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Support is flooding toward a New York City leader who over the weekend revealed she has a sexually transmitted infection eyed as the main culprit that causes cervical cancer.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced Sunday in a series of tweets that she was recently diagnosed with high-risk HPV, or human papillomavirus.
She found out at her first gynecological exam in some two years, a length of time she called alarming.
The Democrat who represents East Harlem and the South Bronx will be undergoing a biopsy Tuesday to determine the status of her infection.
Her revelation was apparently spurred by a desire to raise awareness. She said her position as a city leader means she has a "bigger responsibility."
“Yes, I’m an extremely private person. But this position has led me to understand I now have a bigger responsibility. So….#moretocome,” she wrote.
“Our health should never be compromised. Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn’t lend itself to this for many.
“At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have “high risk HPV”. #Biopsy needed #ASAP.
“Tuesday I’m there. To say I’mnot wee bit worried = lie. “High risk HPV” can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitely lead to cervical #cancer.”
Anyone who is sexually active can contract HPV, of which there are more than 150 related viruses.
HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S and are responsible for most all cases of cervical cancer, according to the New York City Department of Health.
Some 79 million people in the U.S. have HPV and another 14 million contract it every year, the agency said.
The high-risk type of HPV, which Mark-Viverito has, can cause cancer and accounts for about 5 percent of all cancers worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, most high-risk HPV infections don’t cause cancer and go away within a year or two, health officials said.
Low-risk HPV infections don’t cause cancer but can cause skin warts on or around the genitals or anus.
HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, but its lack of symptoms and doctors’ limited ability to test for the virus make it difficult to know whether a partner is infected.
There’s much left to do in the area of HPV research, experts say. There’s still no FDA-approved tests to detect the infection in men -- who can then transmit the infection to their female partners -- and there are no recommended screening methods, similar to a Pap test.
Health officials said the best way to reduce the transmission of HPV is to use condoms, but because areas not covered by a condom can be infected with the virus, there is still a chance for transmission.