Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Girls Got you Confused?


The HBO series "Girls",  that is.  And about HPV, that is.

The show has been criticized and is gaining traction but let's hope for the right reasons. The New York Times Blog Well recently discussed the criticism aimed at the show for portraying misinformation about human papillomavirus and the vaccine, Pap smears, HPV testing, cervical cancer, sexually transmitted infections in general and the character Hannah in particular.

Let's be real:television is supposed to entertain and not always be a vehicle for education.  But, it does no service to these four college graduates or their alma maters or the qualities of their educations (in class or out) or to the depth and value of sex education (whether in class or self taught) when there is so much misinformation about HPV thrown around.

HPV is confusing.  But there are a few simple things to remember.  Here:

1. HPV is almost ubiquitous.

2. You are almost as likely to "catch" it as you are to "catch" the common cold once you become "sexual" .  "Sexual" includes outercourse: touching, fingering, blowjobs, playing the bases, mutual masturbation....you get the idea. 

3. There are over 100 strains of HPV. Most of them will come and go, leaving no trace, like the common cold virus.

4. The vaccine was designed to protect against only 4 specific strains of the virus. These are the ones most likely to cause genital warts, cervical cancer, and anal and oral cancers.  The bad guys.  Most of them anyway.

5. The vaccine is extremely good at what it does. And extremely safe.  Yeah, it DOES hurt for about thirty seconds when it is given (in the arm, by the way).

6. If you are under 26, it is not too late to get the vaccine even if you are already sexually active, have had an abnormal Pap smear, or have lost track of when you had the first shot and forgot to followup .

7. And BY ALL MEANS you should have the shot if you are MALE.  No, you can't get cervical cancer, but you can give the virus that causes it. Easily.

Finally, find yourself a reliable health care provider who can communicate with you and give you good information.  Also check out Youngwomenshealth.org and GoAskAlice.com for answers to many questions related to HPV and sexuality.

image from collegecandy.com via Googleimages

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