the whole profile of HPV has been really blown out of proportion over the last 10 years causing a lot of undue anxiety for people.
First of all HPV is VERY VERY VERY common and >50% of the population who is sexually active has been exposed to it at some time or another. 80% of people who are exposed to it clear the virus meaning that traces of the virus aren't detectable by testing, though we still don't know whether the virus is just dormant or whether it is totally gone. In any case, it's one of those "ignorance is bliss" type of infections because for the most part, people are totally asymptomatic. The small proportion of people who are exposed to HPV serotypes 6 and 11 get genital warts (though that is less than around 2%) and certain women who are exposed to serotypes 16, 18 or 33 are at risk for cervical cancer. HPV in men has been linked to certain other types of both genital and non-genital cancers, but these cancers are so rare anyway that the risk compared to someone who has never been exposed to HPV is only the TINIEST bit higher!
The majority of people who are exposed to HPV don't know, don't have symptoms and go on to live absolutely normal lives. Dazedandworried, if you've ever had sex with anyone other than your current girlfriend, you may have been exposed to it too! And if you didn't know you have it, you'd very likely live your life without EVER knowing or EVER having problems!
HPV transmission can only be prevented with total sexual abstinence including no oral or manual sex! Or perhaps wearing a condom and spandex shorts at the same time!
For women, having regular pap smears when they become sexually active and following up regularly in the future does a great job of screening for cervical problems. Yes, there are always exceptions to this, but they are the vast minority.
So honestly, don't worry about it. Your body is bombarded (even without having sex) by hundreds of viruses a year and you pass these viruses asymptomatically to other people and never know it. That's what your immune system is for. Don't worry and go and have responsible sex!
Disclaimer: Sex is a great thing, and I always encourage responsible sex, but remember that just because HPV transmission can't be prevented by condoms, other STIs (such and things like chlamydia) CAN be prevented. Practice (lots of) sex, but we should all be responsible about it.