Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Those who oppose the teaching of safe-sex practices often point out that condoms are not successful at stopping the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV). Because HPV is considered a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), and because it can be spread in ways that a condom does not protect against, these people argue that condoms are ineffective against STDs. It's a weak argument, but they keep repeating it, and as long as they stay with the bottom line: "condoms don't prevent all STDs" -- then, people being what they are, nobody will really notice the insufficiency of the argument.

England's The Guardian had an article yesterday, a column by an archaeologist who has been asked to look into the HPV issue. Some of her comments are interesting:
Many of my friends are involved with the new vaccine against HPV (human papillomavirus), the development of which has been largely funded by pharmaceutical companies. The vaccine has gained a lot of press attention. HPV 16 and 18 are linked to 78% of squamous cell cervical cancer and pre-cervical cells (CIN). In the long-term this vaccine and its successors will hopefully consign the many cancers associated with HPV to the history books.

There are only two problems with the vaccine. The first is that it needs to be administered before women catch HPV, so we need to know how and when papilloma is acquired.

The second is an image issue, because HPV is seen as being sexually transmitted. Condoms do not stop its spread, so certain Christian groups in the US, such as the American Family Association, see HPV as demonstrating that safe sex does not work. They use it as an argument for abstinence, and now they are opposed to the new vaccine. These groups are very powerful in the US, and have managed to get warning stickers put on school textbooks stating that Darwinism was only one of many theories. Creationism is the one they prefer. Dying of ignorance

(I love the way they talk about us here in the US as if we were monkeys in a zoo. You can just see that British eyebrow go up, can't you?)
The logic of their anti-HPV vaccine argument is based on "facts" that many doctors and scientists, including the World Health Organisation, repeat as gospel truth. The problem is that these facts are based on long out of date research, because scientists are not keeping up with developments in the field. Cures bring glory. Asking about the background to the virus, and how it is spread, is of less interest to the men in white coats.

The theory of papillomavirus being a sexually transmitted disease (STD) should have been consigned to the history books long ago. Numerous studies have shown that papilloma can be contracted in many non-sexual ways, but for some reason those studies are being ignored.

Scientists made the link between HPV and the main type of cervical cancer about 15 years ago. Two types of HPV (six and 11) are sexually transmitted, so they assumed that other types of HPV were too. That assumption has become axiom, despite numerous studies that contradict this assumption.

Ah, do you get how this works? HPV is spread by sexual contact, yes, and by everything else -- in another part of the article she notes:
Condoms do not prevent the spread of HPV, because condoms only stop semen, and HPV 16 and 18 are not typical STDs. HPV 16 is passed by skin to skin contact, not through semen, so kissing, sharing spoons, breastfeeding, playing sports will all pass it on.

The bottom line is that papillomavirus is everywhere. Some studies show that 90% of all adults have or have had the virus. It's like the flu, and most of the time we fight it off without realising we ever had it.

You may have wondered why the abstinence-only advocates were so loud in telling you that condoms don't work against HPV, when the CDC, for instance, ( LINK) says they do. Well, condoms don't help you fight off the flu, either. The trick is that HPV is not necessarily, maybe not even usually, a sexually transmitted disease.
Cervical cancer is the easiest cancer to detect, but 1,400 women in the UK are still dying from it each year because we are not sharing and publicising research. Many of those women are dying because they didn't get a smear test out of embarrassment or ignorance. If we can get the new research across, we can make women realise that HPV is normal and encourage them to go for smear tests.

Cervical cancer need not be a battle; the treatment, if caught early, is swift and relatively painless. The real battle with cervical cancer is to get the facts about HPV across. The bottom line is that women are dying of ignorance because basic medical research is being ignored.

There is a new HPV vaccine which will come out soon. Some nuts argue that it should not be administered because it would encourage young women to have sex. These people need to be stopped. The facts about HPV need to be publicized. Teenagers need to learn the correct way to use a condom.


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