In case you didn’t know, human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease. There are over 100 strains of the virus–some that never cause any symptoms at all. Others, that are responsible for physical changes that many people are not proud of. There is no cure for HPV infection. For some people, HPV may cause genital warts. Warts may appear on the genitals of men and women, on the cervix, vagina, inner legs, and the anus. Typically, the condition is painless, but can result in a dramatic increase in the chances of developing cervical cancer in women as well as anal cancers in men. There have been many debates over the introduction of HPV vaccines, like Gardasil and Cervarix since they came to the market in 2006. Some people have been misinformed, and believe that the vaccine is a green light to have all the unprotected sex they desire, completely without consequence. Others, think that the vaccine may reverse damage already done by HPV. When in fact neither of these misconceptions are true. The reality of cervical cancer, and the vaccine is that without common sense, responsible sexual education and responsible practices, in conjunction with proper screenings, no vaccine will be of any use.
One prominent Gardasil research physician stunned a room of colleagues when she confessed that Gardasil is virtually pointless. With over 85% of all cervical cancer cases occurring in developing or third world countries (where many don’t have access to the vaccine at all) she proposed that widespread vaccination with the HPV vaccine in developed countries would never hold up to good old PAP smears and regular annual screenings.
A particular study confirms that better general health practices can reduce HPV rates without exposing the general population to a vaccine that is riddled with side effects and permanent risks. An online study published by Health Day News and the Bloomberg Business Report showed that in a study of Ugandan men, those who were circumcised reduced the risk of HPV transmission to their sexual partners. The study, which was also analyzing HIV rates between long term sexual partners. The study looked at 1,000 couples and was able to analyze data on virtually all of them. Results showed that after two years, 27.8% of circumcised men had partners with HPV infection compared to 38.7% of women whose partners were not circumcised.
Certainly, we cannot say that circumcision alone plays a role in HPV prevention, but it may reduce the rates of infection. In order to dispel myths that the cervical cancer/HPV vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix are 100% effective and make it okay to have unprotected sex, physicians must be vigilant to open a path of communication with all patients who are considering the vaccine. It is an issue that stops many when considering the vaccine is approved for girls as young as 9, and many parents simply are not ready to discuss sexually transmitted disease at such a young age. The study authors also noted that “circumcision offers only partial protection and partners must practice safe sex.”
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