The President of the United States, Donald Trump, apparently did not know the difference between HPV (human papillomavirus) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). That's according to Bill Gates, who said in a video broadcast Thursday that Trump apparently asked him about the distinction twice.
In the video, which was obtained by MSNBC's All in with Chris Hayes show, Gates tells several anecdotes at a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting about his run-ins with the president. He begins by saying that he's only met Trump twice, both times after the election: once in December 2016 and then in March 2017.
During the second meeting, Gates said he and Trump spoke at the White House. "In both of those two meetings, he asked me if vaccines weren't a bad thing, because he was considering a commission to look into ill effects of vaccines," Gates said. "And somebody, his name was Robert Kennedy Jr., was advising him that vaccines were causing bad things, and I said, 'No, that's a dead end, that would be a bad thing, don't do that.'"
Additionally, Gates said, "both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HIV and HPV, so I was able to explain that those are rarely confused with each other."
These two conditions may have similar acronyms, they but don't have much else in common. So, just in case you're also a little fuzzy on the difference, here's the lowdown on both.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, as SELF wrote previously. It's so common, in fact, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that "nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives." According to the CDC, 90 percent of HPV infections go away without treatment within two years, and most people who have it will never experience symptoms or issues with their health.
However, some HPV infections can lead to genital warts, and others can lead to cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and back of the throat. About 91 percent of all cervical cancer cases are related to HPV infections. That's why the CDC recommends all kids ages 11 and 12 get the HPV vaccine.
Meanwhile, HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, making it more likely for someone to get infections or related cancers, according to the CDC, and can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if untreated. HIV is transmitted through certain bodily fluids (including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk) from a person with an HIV infection. In the U.S., HIV is primarily spread through sexual activity or by sharing injection drug equipment.
The CDC says there currently isn't an effective cure, but antiretroviral therapy can control HIV and keep people with HIV healthy and living longer. It can also reduce the chances of spreading HIV to others. PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is also an effective tool in preventing HIV infection.
While both HPV and HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, there's a huge distinction to keep in mind: HIV is transmitted through fluids while HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. So, while condoms are a necessary and highly effective way to reduce your risk of both viruses, it's possible to get HPV even if you use a condom. That's why vaccination and routine cervical cancer screening are so important.
Your ob/gyn will check for signs of cervical cancer at your regular Pap smear appointments. But recent research suggests that fewer young Americans are getting the recommended testing for HIV these days. The only way to know your status is to get tested—so it's important to stay aware and on top of your sexual health, no matter who you are.