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ISSUE 120 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 3/23/2007

HPV vaccination useful

By Tim Rehborg
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 23, 2007

HPV: human papilloma virus, sexually transmitted disease, cause of genital and anal warts, anal and penile cancer. Gardasil: vaccine approved by the FDA last summer as an effective means of guarding against these diseases by preventing HPV. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three out of four sexually active women in the United States contract HPV in their lifetime, and that more than 20 million people are infected now.

HPV doesn’t make you sick. It manifests itself only in genital warts, which may lead to cancer. The absence of more serious initial symptoms is what allows its rampant spread among the population.

Hence, Gardasil sounds like a godsend. Imagine a shot that can help prevent 70 percent of cervical cancers from afflicting people. I don’t understand why people aren’t rushing out in droves for the shot.

The shot, so far, is approved for girls aged 12 to 26 (it has not yet been deemed safe for those over 26). Many school districts, while discussing adding Gardasil to the list of mandatory shots, run up against opposition from parents.

What parents don’t want to give their children protection from cervical cancer? The same ones that promote abstinence-only sex education. You see, if we give youngsters this shot, protecting them against one of the minor STDs, they will obviously take more risks in their sexual behavior. Because, I mean, HPV is what my sex-ed teacher always talked about. Never mind, oh, I don’t know, gonorrhea or syphilis or AIDS.

Nevertheless, many parents object to making the shot mandatory, like vaccinations for measles and mumps, claiming that the vaccine could lead children into a false sense of security concerning sexual health. However, it seems that accurate sex education would help young people make the right decisions about sexual activity.

This vaccination should be provided for all young people. It makes absolutely no sense to withhold a preventative for cancer on these grounds.

The distribution of this vaccine faces other obstacles. The shots cost approximately $150 each in a sequence of three. Legislation needs to happen to make these shots affordable to the American public, and the government should start a campaign to make people aware of the benefits of having the shot.

Another target audience for the vaccine is homosexual men. The BBC reports many cases of men in London getting the shot on request, as it helps prevent not only cervical, but also penile cancer, as well as genital warts.

It makes sense to have both men and women receive the vaccination. A sexually transmitted disease, like HPV, requires two parties for transmission. Both partners in a sexual relationship are responsible for making sure that they and their partner are safe from STDs.

And in the case of HPV, that means getting the vaccine.

Staff Writer Tim Rehborg is a junior from Owatonna, Minn. He majors in English and in dance.

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