HPV, or the Human Papilloma Virus, is one cause of cervical cancer among women. Spread by sexual contact like HIV and other STDs, it starts as an infection – which sometimes clears up, and other times predicts cervical cancer.
The good news is that there’s a vaccine against HPV that’s showing up in clinical tests as being very effective in preventing HPV infection (and thus the later cervical cancer it causes). You’d think this would be great news, right?
Well, there’s a sticking point: girls will have to be vaccinated before they’re sexually active, and so the usual group of people who want to deny that women are sexual – or that women get sexual diseases from their husbands – are at it again.
- “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council. She further clarifies: “”Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex.”
- Parents often think their own daughters are virtuous, and so not in need of the vaccination.
- Asian women in Britian already resist getting tested for HPV, because if they’re found positive they fear death at their husbands’ hands – when it’s most likely those very same husbands were the ones who infected them. Even though there is screening for the disease, which is effective in treating it before it becomes cervical cancer, the usual suspects prevent treatment. (If women, however, could get vaccinated, there would be no need to get screened later on.)
- And then there’s this simple fact: the most effective way to keep women from getting HPV and the cervical cancer it causes is for men to get vaccinated. If they can’t get it, they can’t spread it. But of course men themselves aren’t fatally threatened by HPV – only the women they give it to are.
As if teenage girls tell their moralistic parents if they’re having sex…
So once again, women will die because of our ass-backwards attitudes about women’s sexuality, about sex in general, and because – well, women’s lives and health are effectively in men’s hands.
You’d think, once in a while, our rational selves would win. The good news is that the new vaccine might be available as early as next year.
Thanks to Betty for sending me the link, to Arthur Silbur for blogging it, and to The New Scientist for the article.