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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Who needs the HPV vaccine?

    Let’s talk about sex: The random hookup, the one-night stand, the no strings attached, don’t wake me in the morning sex. It seems like every day this is getting a little riskier. With an endless list of sexually transmitted diseases, and Arizona State University only a few hours away, adopting the “”look but don’t touch theory”” seems to be the best bet.

    Every new statistic provides women with another reason to become celibate, so one would think that a new vaccine would receive praise. But confusion concerning who should get the shot is turning its deserved praise into a huge game of “”not it.””

    Many women on campus are talking about a new vaccine often referred to as the “”cervical cancer shot.”” The shot is the first of its kind – a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine called Gardasil.

    HPV is a sexually transmitted virus known to cause cervical cancer and a number of other unsavory symptoms. According to the American Cancer Association, in the United States, about 11,150 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,670 women will die from cervical cancer in 2007.

    Gardasil protects against four types of HPV, which are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, according to Faye Libbey, a nurse practitioner at Campus Health Services.

    Many college-aged women are not well educated about the vaccine, beyond knowledge of its existence. This is primarily because the vaccine’s advertisements and focus is not geared towards college-aged women. The main focal group (and ideal candidates) is 11-12-year-old girls, who have most likely not been sexually active or exposed to HPV yet.

    Assuming that most women older than 13 have already become sexually active is a mistake. But more importantly, this focus is causing sexually active women and women over the age of 13 to think that the vaccine cannot help them.

    But the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccine for women 9 to 26 years of age. And women who are sexually active can still benefit from the vaccine.

    On the other side, women who are not sexually active feel they have no reason to get the vaccine to begin with. Sarah Conn, a pre-nursing freshman was straightforward; “”I didn’t get the vaccine because I’m not sexually active.””

    So let me get this right: Sexually active women aren’t getting the vaccine because they think it can’t help them, and women who aren’t sexually active aren’t getting it because they feel they don’t need it?

    Here we are with this great development in women’s health, an exciting precaution that could prevent the virus that causes a vast majority of cervical cancer, and no one thinks the vaccine is relevant to them. Is it just me, or are we going in circles?

    “”I can’t say it is irrelevant for anyone. Someone who has never been sexually active or someone who is sexually active – everyone can benefit,”” Libbey, the nurse practitioner, said. She added that even women who are sexually active most likely have not been exposed to all four types of HPV that the vaccine protects against.

    To make matters worse, the vaccine comes with a hefty price tag. According to theirWeb site, Campus Health is offering the Gardasil vaccine, which is a series of three shots, for $360.

    That number alone is intimidating. It’s ridiculous, and could determine, regardless of sexual activity, whether someone can even afford the vaccine. But, according to Libbey, your insurance may cover it if you are in the target age range of 9-26.

    “”People who have major insurance plans, their insurance company probably already covers the vaccine so they could come to Campus Health and get it. They should call their insurance plan and verify,”” Libbey said.

    Costs aside, it is important to realize that Gardasil is a precaution, not a cure. The vaccine only protects against four types of HPV, so it doesn’t open the door to promiscuity or replace check-ups.

    “”Even if a woman does get Gardasil, she needs to know it isn’t a replacement for Pap testing,”” said Campus Health Educator and Sexual Health Specialist Lee Ann Hamilton.

    This is a huge step in women’s health, an opportunity to protect yourself. No, this is not a cure, but it’s a precaution that far exceeds anything the condom or any other preventative measure could ever do.

    Chelsea Jo Simpson is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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