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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sex awareness erases HPV myths

    April is STD Awareness Month, and health officials want students to know the many misunderstandings about STDs, especially human papillomavirus, which is commonly referred to as HPV.

    For many UA students, the term “”HPV”” brings to mind terrifying thoughts of incurable sexually transmitted diseases and an inevitable battle with cervical cancer. For others, the letters are simply an acronym for a disease they know little about.

    Mikaela Hudson, a pre-business junior, said although she didn’t know much about HPV, she knew the disease was prevalent and potentially serious.

    “”I know that it causes cancer in women and it’s very common,”” Hudson said.

    Although many students share Hudson’s concerns about the links between HPV and cancer, experts said they can relax.

    According to Lisa A. Mokaba, account coordinator for technology and health care agency Schwartz Communications, “”HPV is primarily a benign disease, with only 13 of the more than 100 strains actually causing cancer. Only persistent infection with ‘high-risk’ types of HPV puts a woman at risk for cervical cancer,”” Mokaba said.

    Students were shocked to find that approximately 80 percent of sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives.

    Vanessa Elias, a political science freshman, said that figure was much higher than she expected.

    “”I’m shocked and surprised,”” Elias said. “”I thought the number would be around 12 percent.””

    However, students were relieved to find out that HPV infections go away on their own in about 90 percent of cases.

    Hudson said with all the hype about the disease floating around, she thought curing the disease would require some type of medical treatment.

    “”I thought since it could cause cancer it would be more serious and you’d have to get some type of medical care,”” Hudson said.

    Carrie Lyons, an undeclared freshman, said her experience with a friend has led her to teach her peers about the disease.

    Lyons said a male friend got the disease from a long-term girlfriend, and he initially felt panicked and betrayed. However, after learning more about HPV, her friend realized his situation was not as serious as he worried it might be.

    Lyons said after helping her friend cope with this experience, she decided to educate her sorority about it through a presentation.

    “”I had no idea about HPV until a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I should tell everybody else,”” Lyons said.

    Mokaba said sexually active students should see Campus Health Service or a doctor regularly to get a Pap smear, which is the best defense against HPV.

    Pre-communication sophomore Sara Aguirre said she thinks many college students could protect themselves from HPV and other STDs much better if they were examined by their doctors more often.

    “”I think there’s more of an emphasis on getting tested in college than there is in high school, but I still don’t think enough girls get checked often enough,”” Aguirre said. “”It’s scary to know that it could take so long for people with HPV to realize they have it, or potentially even have cancer.””

    Students can schedule Pap smears and gynecological examinations through Women’s Health at Campus Health at 621-9202.

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