Human Papillomavirus

Human Papillomavirus or HPV comes in over 100 strains which infect skin and mucous membranes of humans and many animals. Some of these strains are fairly benign and unnoticeable, some cause common warts or plantar warts (warts on the bottom of the foot). Other strains are more malignant causing genital or anal warts or cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is responsible for the death of over 280,000 people per year and is almost always caused by sexually transmitted HPV infection. Unfortunately the use of safe sex practices such as condoms to prevent HPV has been clearly shown to be only partially effective since transmission is skin to skin. Conservatives are correct in suggesting that abstinence is the only way to be truly safe.

I had the good fortune lately to dine with a friend who is working at Merck pharmaceuticals company promoting the use of their new HPV vaccine, Guardasil. Guardasil defends against four common cancer causing HPV types responsible for 70% of cancers and 90% of genital warts. The European Union has already approved the use of guardasil in both men and women while the more backwards and highly politicised US Food and Drug Administration, who deny any medical benefit of cannabis, have so far only approved Guardasil for young women and girls. My friend did inform me that some enlightened US doctors will nonetheless prescribe Guardasil to men even though it is not "indicated."

The State of Tejas recently decided to implement mandatory HPV vaccination for middle school girls with exceptions made for allergic or religious conflict. This is an extremely wise decision by the State legislature and much to the benefit of the people of Texas and those who might have sexual contact with a Texan woman. The move is much to the credit of Texas which is often stereotyped as a bastion of ignorant fundamentalist Christian extremism.

Hopefully new vaccines will emerge combating other strains of the virus and others which plague the human species.

Regarding the ethics of infectious disease transmission and sensible public health policies, I will have much more to say. In the meantime, my readers may ponder this post from Volokh Conspiracy. Most importantly I wish my readers to recognise the tremendous prevalence of HPV in our society, and to take a much more sober view of sexual contact than pop culture and health classes would have you believe. 27 million Americans have genital HPV infection. Many people with HPV, HSV-2 or even HIV, even those who know they have it, will lie about their status and knowingly infect their partners out of shame or selfishness.

Be safe and Ja Bless.


Anonymous said...

280,000 deaths per year? That is more like the number of infections. Less than 4000 die each year of cervical cancer. Get a pap test if you are concerned. Early detection vastly improves survival rates.

Pace said...

Anonymous, 4000 die in the US. This number is relatively low owing to the availability of top notch testing, cryosurgery to remove dysplastic tissue, and finally chemotherapy to defeat cancer. These services are less prevalent outside of the US, thus resulting in a 280,000/year death rate.

(I should have sited where I found that statistic - when I get time)