HPV Vaccine, Right of Girls To Health

By Tracee Sioux

I have been a little surprised at the reaction to a vaccine for HPV (human papillomavirus virus), which causes cervical cancer.

I suppose I thought most of the planet, like me, have spent some time hoping that mad-scientists will eventually eradicate cancer. So, when I heard they had an actual vaccine, Center for Disease Control , Approximately 20 million people are currently infected with HPV. At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives. By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection. About 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year.

My brain is trying to wrap itself around the fact that 80 percent of ALL women will acquire a form of HPV.

Hypothetically, this means out of my grandmother, mother, self, daughter and sister only one of us will NOT be infected. I’m going guess my 83-year-old grandmother might be the safe one.

You know what the whole argument feels like to me? It feels like the same hypocritical puritanical judgment we have always inflicted on our girls and their sexuality.

If you weren’t a slut you wouldn’t get cervical cancer. Serves you right!

However, in this case, it is patently unjustifiable. A girl’s virtue will not keep her from contracting HPV. There is a large population of girls at risk of contracting HPV through cheating or abuse.

A woman is at risk for dying of cervical cancer if she has the bad luck of being married to an adulterer.

* Though they vary from study to study, the most widely accepted figures indicate that between 50 and 70 percent of married men (between 38 and 53 million men) have cheated or will cheat on their wives, according to Ruth Houston, the author of “Is He Cheating on You?-829 Telltale Signs.”

Sexual abuse victims are also at risk of contracting HPV, which can develop into cancer.

* During FFY 2005, an estimated 899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. Approximately 9.3% of them were victims of sexual abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Department, 2005 Child Maltreatment report.

* Twenty percent of teenage girls and young women have experienced some form of dating violence, according to the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.

Not requiring the vaccine is unfairly denying basic healthcare to ALL girls period. According to the intercourse is not required to contract the HPV virus. One should assume that many young girls participate in foreplay or sexual experimentation for years prior to having actual sex.

Condoms or other contraceptives do not prevent the spread of HPV because an exchange of fluids is not required to pass the virus from person to person. HPV can be spread from skin to skin and condoms do not cover all contagious areas.

The only thing to protect girls from cervical cancer is the Gardasil HPV vaccine. The vaccine prevents 70% of cervical cancer. Other drug companies are developing similar vaccines which may be more or less effective.

What breaks my heart is the inevitable image of a woman in her early 20s finding out that she may die or never be able to conceive because she contracted this virus. Maybe she had sex with her steady boyfriend in high school and they broke up and she married her college boyfriend and they became a typical young married couple who goes to church every Sunday. Oh, but instead of wearing a scarlet letter “A” she gets to fight cancer. With chemotherapy, hair loss, infertility and possible death.

This cancer kills around 26% of women who are diagnosed with it.

Maybe her parents are people with conservative family values, or maybe her insurance company won’t cover it because the state doesn’t require it to enter school, or her parents are just ignorant and irresponsible.

Either way, no girl deserves to die of cancer because she had sex, not even a promiscuous girl. The punishment, and really lets just admit it’s punitive to deny someone basic health care in an attempt to prevent sex, is not equal to the crime.

This scare-tactic method of encouraging abstinence has been ineffective in the face of AIDS, pregnancy and every other sexually transmitted disease. Why, would we think that it would be effective just because cancer is in the forbidding sentence? Adolescents have no sense of mortality. They have no sense of future long-term consequences. It’s the curse and blessing of the teenager that they are blissfully unaware that they will ever be 30.

Nor is cervical cancer or HPV a natural consequence or an unforeseeable circumstance from having sex anymore. No more than having babies is a natural consequence of sex. I have sex all the time, but we have chosen to have only two children and have used information and scientific advancement to prevent the natural consequence of children. Now that we know what causes cervical cancer and we know we can vaccinate girls against it, then there is deliberate harm in withholding the vaccine. Now that we have the knowledge and access to a vaccine, cervical cancer is now a natural consequence of neglecting the health of our girls.

I don’t agree with the argument that it’s the parents’ right to choose whether or not their daughter should be vaccinated. I believe it is every girl’s absolute right to be protected from cervical cancer. The only way to ensure that a girl has access to her right to basic health is for the government to require the vaccination.

The reason all vaccinations are required to enter school is to prevent the spread of communicable diseases that pose a significant health threat to society. HPV and cervical cancer represent a significant health threat to ALL girls, promiscuous or not, and HPV is a very wide-spread communicable disease.

The reason the immunization should be given upon enter the sixth-grade is because a lot of sexual experimentation occurs in junior high school. By high school, for a lot of our girls, it’s already too late. By the time a girl reaches 26, coincidentally around the same time she’s considering marriage, so many girls have already contracted the virus the CDC doesn’t even recommend the vaccine.

The reason parents, in general, are not a good option to guard their daughters’ health in the case of HPV and cervical cancer is that parents usually aren’t the first to know about their daughters’ sexual activity. If seven out of 10 girls have sex by the time they are 17, it’s reasonable to assume that six of those girls’ parents don’t know about it.

Texas was the first state to confront the issue. They confronted it with puritanical judgment and a complete denial of reality.

I encourage you to write your legislature, governor and health department and request that the vaccination be required for girls in your state.

If you’re a parent, please be pro-active and responsible for your daughter’s future health by getting her immunized against the HPV virus. This is a prime teachable moment to talk to young girls about the potential consequences of sexual experimentation in an honest and open way. I really believe if we are open and honest with girls about sex, instead of punitive, forbidding and secretive then we will be much more effective in encouraging them to make better decisions about their sexuality.

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