A few years back, 2006 to be exact, you might have seen those catchy, melodic commercials urging all girls to become “one less” woman affected by cervical cancer. Whoever watched these TV ads most likely became convinced that this vaccine only prevents cervical cancer and that ONLY GIRLS were allowed to have it.
Well the truth is that WAS correct…the Gardasil vaccine was not FDA approved for males until a few years later in 2009. It wasn’t until 2012 that the CDC decided to extend the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine routine vaccination recommendation to boys.Why guys you might ask–boys don’t have a cervix! Why would they need a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer?! Good question! Here are a few statistics that might help you understand the reasons:
- 75-80% of sexually-active adults will have been infected with HPV before the age of 50.
- 20 million U.S. residents currently have genital HPV.
- HPV causes CANCER: Cervical, Vulvar, Vaginal, Oropharyngeal (oral), Anal, and Penile.
- Yes, the last three on that list affect MEN too.
- HPV is now the leading cause of oral cancer — after smoking and sun exposure
- About 40% of penile cancer cases are HPV-related, but these rates have basically remained the same.
- HPV also causes genital warts. Gross.
- That can affect ANYONE regardless of sex.
These stats can be pretty scary. I mean…who knew that your chances of getting HPV might be higher that the score you’re going to get on that next calculus test? The good news is most of the time your body’s immune system can fight off HPV and get rid of it all on its own. The bad news…you don’t get to choose whether or not you’ll get rid of it on your own. The solution? BOYS and GIRLS need to all get vaccinated and get it done sooner rather than later!
So HPV vaccine rates among women are increasing. 20.7% in 2010 to 29.5% in 2011 reported receiving at least one or more doses. More men are getting the vaccine too (1.5% in 2010 to 2.1% in 2011). BUT the amount of guys getting vaccinated doesn’t even compare to the amount of girls getting vaccinated! The fact is most guys don’t think that they need it. But now YOU know better, right?!
So GUYS and GIRLS, here’s what you can do to save your self from the evil Human Papilloma Virus:
- If you haven’t already asked for the HPV Vaccine, talk to your parents, your doctor, or your school nurse and tell them that you want it!
- The recommended age to be vaccinated is around 11 or 12, but if you’re older Not To Worry! You can still get the vaccine until you’re 26! But it is most effective to get the vaccine well before you experience any sexual encounters. So get it as early as you can just so you can get those 3 shots over and done with.
- Make sure you get ALL 3 doses of the HPV vaccine. Yes, there are 3 :(. You should get the 2nd dose a month after the first, and the 3rd dose 6 months after the first. Remember you can still pick up wherever you left off if you don’t follow this time line exactly, BUT try your best to follow the timeline
- The HPV can be pretty pricy, BUT the good news is that if you and your family have health insurance, the vaccine should be covered if you are 26 or younger. If you don’t have health insurance and you’re under 18 DON’T WORRY there is something awesome called the Vaccines For Children Program (VFC) that will provide free vaccines for children who are eligible. Just ask your mom or dad to look them up!
- Finally, SPREAD THE WORD! Tell all of your friends, GUYS and GIRLS to get vaccinated! Help protect them from HPV related cancers later in life.
If you happened to watch that episode of HBO’s Girls where they talked about HPV, just throw everything you heard out the window. Most of their facts were just…not factual. During this episode Hannah played by Lena Dunham is diagnosed with HPV after being given an HPV test. This in reality would not be approved for women under 30 unless abnormal cells are present during a pap smear, which is not the case for Hannah. Needless to say, this is not the only statement about HPV that would lead viewers to false beliefs. Check out this article from the NY Times.
BUT yes there is an actual HPV test… for women. There is not an FDA approved test for men yet. However, great strides are being made in this HPV DNA testing. Women should remember to get pap smears regularly (every two years) beginning either at age 21 or after having sex for the first time, whichever comes first. GUYS… remember to stay vigilant. Be aware of the symptoms.
Two Quick Disclaimers– Gardasil is the only vaccine approved for both males and females and to protect against certain strains of genital warts. Cervarix is only approved for women. Also the HPV Vaccine does not protect against ALL strains of HPV so in addition to getting the vaccine. The BEST thing you can do is practice SAFE SEX!
By CRISTINA SANSONE