By Leonel Rojas ‘17
HPV, human papillomavirus, is a group of viruses, with some of them even being able to cause cancer.
HPV has more than 200 related viruses, which are categorized between low-risk, and high-risk HPVs, according to an article by the National Cancer Institute from http://www.cancer.gov. The way that HPV can be transmitted is if the individual has been sexually active, with an even greater risk if that individual has been sexually active with many other individuals.
Dr. Marilyn Milkman, who is a gynecologist, and used to be an obstetrician, said, “The only true way of preventing getting HPV is to not have sex.”
The obvious protection against HPV would be the use of condoms, but the use of a HPV vaccine can protect against future HPV infections, not already established infections.
Dr. Milkman said, “In the studies done on the HPV vaccine, the young women and men who were given the vaccine before they became sexually active had significantly less HPV related problems than people who didn’t get the vaccine.”
The actual use of the vaccine and the cost itself are entirely different. The decision for giving the vaccine falls on the pediatrician and the parents of the child, with the cost of trying to vaccinate the entire population being expensive.
In an article called “CDC Endorses a More Effective HPV Vaccine to Prevent Cancer” by Tara Haelle from npr.org, the actual age for an individual to be given the vaccine depends if they have been sexually active or sexually abused. It is most suggested for nine through ten year olds who have a history of sexual abuse.
“The very best time to get the HPV vaccine is before you start having sex,” said Dr. Milkman, “That way your body can build up the resistance to the virus before you are exposed to it.”
This is the same as someone taking the Chickenpox vaccine, and not getting infected by it later on in life, since they already have antibodies to fight against it. However, there are only vaccines for the high-risk HPV strands.
“The vaccines available now only cover between 4 and 9 of the strains, and 2 of them are for what we call low risk strains that cause external warts but not cancer,” said Dr. Milkman, “So even if you get the vaccine you still might get an HPV infection. The vaccines do cover some of the worst strains of the virus so in general I do think it is a good idea for young people to get it.”
Some students who have taken the HPV vaccine, recommend people to take the vaccine.
“I recommend people getting any vaccine that is recommended by the doctor and this one is recommended,” said Partha Dey ’17.
Ivory Tyson ’17 said that she would recommend the vaccine in order to help prevent people from getting the disease.