HPV is Not the African-gown killer its made to be…

A post appeared on the 24th September on Facebook with his picture below, warning readers to be aware of a new virus… which is worse than HIV…and one could be infected with it through sex.


Image verification tools revealed that these pictures were of Dede Koswara; they began making rounds after an internet documentation of him in November 2007. Platforms such as Dailymail UK reported this after his death in 2017. But it seems we have not seen the last of this story as another version surfaces 2 years post mortem.

What is HPV?

This rare disease- tree man syndrome, rightly known as Lewandowsky-Lutz dysplasia, is named after the physicians who first documented it, Felix Lewandowsky and Wilhelm Lutz. It is a very common STI communicable through skin to skin contact with has over 100 varieties. The more benign versions simply go away, but there are serious cases leading to genital warts and cancer.

Is this a “new virus discovered in Africa”?

While the Facebook claim asserts that the image depicts a “new virus discovered in Africa”, it is quite the contrary. The dermatologist Felix Lewandowsky discovered the disease in 1922. The assertion that it was first discovered in Africa is also questionable as both experts that documented the disease were German. We surmise that the disease was discovered there or perhaps in Europe first (findings do not empirically state country of origin).

HPV Prevalence & Notable symptoms

The individual has discoloured (paler) areas of skin infection, uncontrolled wart growths on the skin resembling the back of trees and scales. Reports confirm that Dede had these infections as the photo shows; eventually dying at the Hasan Sadikin Hospital, Bandung in Indonesia due to more complications.

There are other cases of HPV prevalence save Dede in. Also, this is not the first time we have heard of HPV. It gained popularity in recent decades because of its nasty habit to infect the cervix– resulting in cervical cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in Nigeria with 14,943 cases occurring every year.  In males, HPV can also lead to penile cancer; but more commonly resulting in genital warts.

Can you get HPV even with protected sex

You can contract HPV through skin to skin contact; hence, the advent of contraction amid contraception exists. Still, health authorities highly recommend the usage of contraception during intercourse; studies suggest this too. More so, there exists several HPV vaccination that helps prevention; as well as guidelines for prevention and safety around STIs in general.

Nonetheless, there is no mention in scientific research that condoms are only 60% effective in protecting against HPV, HIV or indeed other diseases. Contrary, findings suggest proper usage of condoms will aid in reducing the chances of an STI- though not 100% safe.

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