I recently got into a heated discussion about things related to HPV, Fangirls, and it reminded me how important of an STD it is to talk about. When we think about sexually transmitted infections or diseases, HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, seems to be overlooked much too often. That has to change for a laundry list of reasons, friends.
So, that whole Gardasil blow up happened when I was a preteen. For those of you who might not know, Gardasil is a vaccine created to prevent most strains of HPV. It’s a series of three shots, administered over six months. Three shots, and your protected from HPV (specifically types 6, 11, 16, and 18). Why parents got so up in arms about this? I have no idea, and it angers me. If you’re a parent, or personally have the option to get the Gardasil vaccine, please do so. Vaccines that outright prevent an STD from occurring are rare, and an incredible thing to have available to us. We should not take for granted a protection like that. Especially because of the many threats that HPV poses to us.
I’ll be honest, for the most part, HPV is “harmless”, as far as having an STD goes. Some strains cause warts on the genitals, some don’t cause anything at all. Most of the time, you won’t even know that it’s there, and it will clear up on it’s own. That’s not saying that you shouldn’t care about it, though. I think the whole not knowing you could be infected is one of the reasons why you should care. I think just because it’s an STD you should care. However, if that’s not enough, you should really give a shit about HPV because high risk strains of it can cause cancer. Some times, you can be infected with a more long-term strain of the virus, which cause changes in cells that can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, or throat. Most often, HPV will cause cervical cancer. Doctors don’t know why some people get an easy-going HPV infection, and why others can get a long-term, cancerous HPV infection. Because it’s such mysterious toss up, you’ve got to care about it, and you’ve got to protect yourself. To protect yourself, you’ve got to know the facts. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, usually during vaginal, anal or oral sex. So, to prevent infection, wear condoms and use dental dams. Condoms are not as effective in preventing HPV infections as they are with other STDs, but they certainly help tremendously. Of course, a giant step in protecting yourself from HPV is getting the vaccine. It protects women from 2 of the strains of the virus that cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases. Don’t worry, men can, and should, receive the vaccination too. Don’t be dumb, get the vaccine.
If you are worried that you might be infected, or are just wondering how they find an infection with virtually no symptoms, allow me to shed some light. Women can be tested for HPV, men cannot be. Unfortunately, there is not yet a test for men. For women, they can be given a pap test. That alone will normally give your doctor an answer, but if any abnormal cells are found in the cervix, those can be sent off to be tested for the virus. So, the pap finds the abnormal cells, and the HPV test find the virus that causes the abnormal cells. Women over 30 will most likely be tested for HPV at a routine gyno visit.
So there you have it, Fangirls, Human Papillomavirus. You’ve got the facts, now please be smart with them. Protect yourselves, and talk to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. It’s important, you’re important, being aware of HPV is important.
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