A terrifying story is making the rounds on various websites claiming there’s a new strain of human papilloma virus (HPV) that has the potential to “kill faster than AIDS.”
The article — published on websites like Discover Newz and The Native Love claims that “students from Kisii University, Kenya and the general public at large have been warned against kissing carelessly due to an outbreak of Human papilloma virus, which has seen several people admitted at Kisii level 5 hospital after testing positive to the disease.”
The report adds that the HPV is “gradually circulating” throughout Kenya and countries throughout Southern Africa and will eventually cause a worldwide epidemic.
Sounds terrifying, but luckily it’s not true.
The websites reporting on this “outbreak” are known for spreading fake news and sensationalized gossip and various accounts of it date back to 2016, according to Snopes. The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control would be the agencies reporting such potentially devastating news — and they haven’t said a word.
HPV might not ‘kill faster than AIDS,’ but it can cause cancer
According to Brodie, these reports gained traction because of how HIV and AIDS has affected the people of Africa.
“It’s confusing HPV with HIV, and HIV is still a big ‘scare factor,'” Brodie said.
That’s not to say HPV isn’t dangerous. There are 100 different types of the sexually transmitted disease, according to Planned Parenthood. Some don’t show any symptoms, while others cause genital warts. The most serious types — especially types 16 and 18 — can cause cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is less deadly than it used to be in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society, but rates continue to increase in many developing countries.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) show promise in helping reduce cervical cancer deaths, but fabrications like these “news” reports don’t help because people are scared and uninformed about health in Africa.
“This plays into a well-established trope of poorly-informed myths around healthcare in Africa,” Nechama Brodie of the fact checking agency Africa Check told Snopes.