Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The reason for the HPV vaccine...

The CDC announced yesterday at it's annual conference (in Chicago this year!) that 1 in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

The most common STD among teenage girls being Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, the disease that can cause cervical cancer in women and can cause penile or anal cancer in men. The second-most common STD in teenage girls is chlamydia.

"The study by CDC researcher Dr. Sara Forhan is an analysis of nationally representative data on 838 girls aged 14 to 19 who took part in a 2003-04 government health survey. Teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18 percent of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4 percent; trichomoniasis, 2.5 percent; and genital herpes, 2 percent."

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the study shows that “the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price.”

It's sad that in a country led by social conservatives who are trying to teach the world that sex is immoral and wrong, one quarter of our teenaged girls have STDs. The topic is so hush-hush in many circles, that I fear our teens aren't getting accurate information when it comes to safe(r)-sex and STD transmission, including their risk factors.

It's sad that in a country led by, and continuously threatened by, the religious and conservative right, more money is spent on scientifically disproven "abstinence-only" sex education programs, and NONE is allowed be spent on the scientifically proven #1 way to reduce new HIV cases: needle-exchange programs.

All because a greedy "pastor" or "church-leader" and the legislators who are funded by them, realize he or she can make millions off of other's ignorance, or by inciting fear into the "good" God-fearing people of this country, who want nothing more than an authority figure to tell them they are better than someone else.

Sadly, because our country is still very Puritanical, girls and boys alike are being harmed in ways that could be prevented by a simple vaccine, and with a little education.

Instead, corporation-like mega-churches that provide millions in funding to lawmakers and our administration, decide for the rest of us which actions are to be condemned and punished, and which ones--regardless of the cost to public health and health disparities in minority groups--will be rewarded. It is a system that continues to do more harm than good, regardless of the will of the people they supposedly represent. Regardless of the research that proves their harm.

And regardless of the research that shows the benefits to things like sex-education programs, STD education, drug awareness, and--yes--even needle-exchange programs to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

It's sad that instead of realizing that not everyone is lucky enough to fit a cookie-cutter white, middle-America, Christian, heterosexual image, conservatives are too busy condemning the "morally wrong" instead of offering any real solutions to the very real problems the rest of us face.

Problems they also face, but usually don't want to admit.

My solutions to the STD problem?

-Increase funding for sex-education programs in public schools, which would include a discussion on safer sex, abstinence, and STDs.
-Throw out the ineffective abstinence-only programs in public schools
-Place additional funding for programs and sex ed in schools were there are large percentages of racial minorities, especially black children.
-Require/allow-for confidential STD testing for teens, to ensure their parents can't get their results without written authorization
-Mandate that the children attending public schools (boys and girls) be vaccinated for HPV, the way many other vaccines are mandated.
-Allow exceptions to the vaccine mandate based on religious or personal beliefs the way it is allowed for other vaccines.

I know these are simple solutions. But the game of political football isn't simple. I don't expect much from our government lately.

PS- I am realllly jealous that due to work obligations I didn't get to attend the CDC conference. It's never in Chicago. Humph.


Fannie said...

It's sad that instead of realizing that not everyone is lucky enough to fit a cookie-cutter white, middle-America, Christian, heterosexual image, conservatives are too busy condemning the "morally wrong" instead of offering any real solutions to the very real problems the rest of us face."

Actually..... I feel pretty lucky that I don't fit that cookie cutter model ;-)

But more to the point of your article, it's really unfortunate that the anti-sex crowd remains in denial about the reality that kids are going to have sex. If they love the children so much you'd think they would want children to have helpful and accurate information to deal with the reality that people are going to fuck no matter how much moralizing you do.

Jane Know said...

It's sad how political even public health is. Why even have "public health" if the officials who make the decisions are motivated more by money, fame, and power than by saving lives?

John said...

Jane, I agree with everything you say, but there is still one component missing that I think is the root cause.

Regardless of how comprehensive a sex education program is, we still teach that all the safe-sex lesson are to be used as a last resort.

Never do we allow our teenagers to think their sexual expression is OK, so we rely on guilt to try to instill "chastity" in them.

We have to do a better job in teaching them that no only is healthy sexual activity OK, it is good thing.