The Grapevine

HPV vs. HIV: Bill Gates Recalls Explaining Difference Between Infections To Trump

Bill Gates recently revealed President Donald Trump had asked him about the difference between HIV and HPV on two separate occasions. The footage of him speaking at a Gates Foundation event was aired on MSNBC program "All In with Chris Hayes" on May 17.

Gates recalled two meetings with Trump – once, at Trump Tower and a second time at the White House. 

"Both times he wanted to know if there was a difference between HPV and HIV," he said to the audience. "So I was able to explain that those were rarely confused with each other."

While they have similar abbreviations, the two are indeed different viruses and are not linked in any way.

"Some people worry that they are the same infection. Other times, people may worry that if they have one sexually transmissible infection or STI, then they’ll automatically get another STI. Neither of these are true," assured Dr. Debby Herbenick, a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States, with an estimated 79 million infected Americans. Referring to a group of viruses, HPV can be spread to both men and women through sexual intercourse and genital contact.

It is said to be so contagious that most sexually active people are likely to contract at least one type of HPV during their lives. In some cases, it could cause serious health problems such as vaginal and anal cancers as well as genital warts. Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. However, most people who are infected face no symptoms or long-term consequences as the virus usually clears up on its own.

On the other hand, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an incurable virus which threatens the immune system of the human body. Once a person is infected with HIV, they will have it for life. However, there are forms of treatment available today to help control the condition. If HIV advances and worsens, it can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) when life expectancy drastically falls.

HIV can be spread through the means of unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be transmitted through contact with infected blood, breast milk, or by sharing needles. An estimated 1.1 million Americans were living with HIV at the end of 2015, making it less common in the country compared to HPV.

While rates have been declining, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation published a global health report in 2017, which highlighted how the Trump administration was seeking to cut funding related to fighting AIDS and HIV by 17 percent. Without adequate funding, Gates stated  "the virus could make a dangerous resurgence."