New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced late Sunday that she has a high-risk form of HPV to try to raise awareness about the common but often stigmatized sexually transmitted infection.
Her gynecologist gave her the diagnosis last week and said she would need to have a biopsy, Mark-Viverito said in a series of messages posted to her Twitter account.
"Yes, I'm an extremely private person," she wrote to explain her decision to publicize her infection. "But this position has led me to understand I now have a bigger responsibility."
Mark-Viverito, who took office in January, is one of the most powerful political figures in New York after Mayor Bill de Blasio, and controls the agenda of the city's main legislative body. De Blasio praised her openness, also via Twitter.
Bravo to @MMViverito, who bravely decided to use a personal crisis as a teachable moment—a classic example of who Melissa is as a person.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) August 19, 2014
There is no cure for HPV, which is short for human papillomavirus, although it sometimes goes away on its own, and some of the health problems it can cause, such as genital warts, can be treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some forms of HPV, which is transmitted through sex with an infected person, are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer in women.
"To say I'm not wee bit worried=lie," Mark-Viverito wrote in one of her Twitter posts. She said her gynecologist was "alarmed" that she had not been screened in two years.
Dozens of other Twitter users, including some fellow New York City politicians, praised Mark-Viverito, saying her announcement was brave.
An estimated 79 million Americans have some form of the virus, the CDC says.