Thursday, March 26, 2009

HPV Vaccine for Boys: Double Standard in Discourse?

Wow, there's a lot of news today. This was on Page One of The Post this morning:
When a vaccine designed to protect girls against a sexually transmitted virus arrived three years ago, the debate centered on one question: Would the shots make young girls more likely to have sex?

Now the vaccine's maker is trying to get approval to sell the vaccine for boys, and the debate is focusing on something else entirely: Is it worth the money, and is it safe and effective enough?

"We are still more worried about the promiscuity of girls than the promiscuity of boys," said Susan M. Reverby, a professor of women's studies and medical history at Wellesley College. "There's still that double standard." A Vaccine Debate Once Focused on Sex Shifts as Boys Join the Target Market

All right, hold it right there.

I appreciate that The Post wants to expose a gender bias in public discourse. In a way this is a progressive story, we should recognize that there is a big difference between discussing chastity and discussing safety.

But did "the debate center on one question?"

We followed "the debate" here on this blog, and ... it wasn't a debate, any more than there is "a debate" over the theory of evolution. Who in their right mind would put their daughter at risk of catching an incurable and possibly deadly disease, out of the belief that protecting her would make her more likely to have sex? Okay, it's a trick question, I snuck the phrase "in their right mind" into it, no fair.

Some of the men at Concerned Women for America say they would do that, but you wonder.

Skipping down, some background:
Gardasil protects against the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV causes genital warts and, in women, can lead to cervical cancer -- a disease that strikes about 10,000 American women a year and kills about 3,700.

For males, the vaccine is aimed at protecting against genital warts and less common malignancies that HPV can cause, such as penile and anal cancer, as well as cancer of the mouth and throat. The virus causes at least 250,000 new cases of genital warts and an estimated 7,500 cancers in males each year, causing perhaps about 1,000 deaths. Vaccinating boys and men would also help prevent the spread of the virus to their sexual partners.

"By vaccinating men as well as women, you reduce the amount of virus that is out there that can be transmitted back and forth," said Richard M. Haupt, who leads the HPV vaccine program at Merck & Co., which makes Gardasil. "Hopefully there will be a benefit not only to men themselves, but to their partners and future partners."

When this vaccine came out, the Family Blah Blah groups came out against it because it would inevitably cause young women to have sex, which they wouldn't ordinarily do, of course. The absence of both facts and logic to support the assertion didn't slow them down any, but it did turn out in the long run to be an embarrassment, it appeared to me, similar to the time they came out against SpongeBob SquarePants. It was just too dumb to think we would sacrifice our daughters to enforce a standard of chastity.

Here's what the Family Research Council was saying in 2005 -- from New Scientist:
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus. Will cancer vaccine get to all women?

You notice the British spellings in that article. You know what they think of us over there, don't you?

And here's what the same group saying in The Post this morning:
Groups that initially were critical when Gardasil was introduced for girls say they now want to make sure the decision is left up to parents.

"We do not oppose the development or distribution of the vaccine," said Peter S. Sprigg of the Family Research Council. "The only concern we have is about proposals to make vaccination mandatory for school attendance. It's a parental rights issue."

You know, I don't remember Peter Sprigg ever having a middle initial before, do you?

Now they're just concerned about "parental rights," just like the CRW was suddenly concerned about racism when the school district had a video that showed a girl going to an abortion clinic.

Again, I think the Washington Post is trying to do the right thing with this morning's article, they are highlighting the difference in the way we talk about boys and girls. You can find an example of that double standard anywhere you look, but this one was especially vivid because the Family Blah Blah groups were actually saying that a girl's chastity is more important than her life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we discussed this last year or the year before, there was some speculation that vaccinating boys was simply not cost-effective in terms of preventing disease and death.

7500 cancers in men, and perhaps 1000 deaths (where do these numbers come from, btw; I couldn't find them on line?).

I made the point that gay men and boys are disproportionately vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV. Virginia's and DC's policies requiring vaccinations for girls only, indicate, in my opinion, an indifference to the fate of gay men.

Surely 7500 cancers and 1000 deaths per year are worth preventing.

Not to mention, of course, that one of the best ways of preventing HPV infection in women is assuring that their partners are immunized against it.

This is a no-brainer for me.

Please, please, let's have a fruitful discussion about this important issue. Anti-lgbt anonymoi need not comment here. Such comments are at best distracting.

March 26, 2009 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"gay men and boys are disproportionately vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV"


Homosexuality is dangerous and high school kids should not be taught a fairy tale about how wonderful it is.

Hope you aren't too distracted by the truth, Robert.

If so, try popping a couple Ritalins.

March 26, 2009 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, I told you that you weren't allowed to comment.

Do I mumble?

March 27, 2009 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" It would make a whole lot sense if you substitute the word "Heterosexuality" for the first word in your ludicrous comment: "Homosexuality is dangerous and high school kids should not be taught a fairy tale about how wonderful it is."
Recent reports quoted in the media indicate that the Defense Department is greatly concerned with the growing numbers of heterosexual rape that are occuring among our servicemen and both in Iraq and here on military bases. I suspect you would not be concerned about this growing criminal activity because you think any heterosexual sexual practice is "normal" so therefore it really isn't a problem when these servicemen act "normally". No doubt you also believe that any STI's contracted in the course of a rape are "normal" because they were contracted by heterosexuals - differentiating them from transmitted diseases contracted by homosexual men.
You are the best fairy tale teller of all and a hypocrite to boot!

March 27, 2009 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 27, 2009 8:41 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, comments that comprise nothing but personal insults won't survive here. If you have a point you are free to make it.


March 27, 2009 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's all Robert's above had

oh, that's right

he agrees with you

March 28, 2009 8:02 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, if I deleted comments I didn't agree with you wouldn't be here at all.

Robert asked if we could have a fruitful discussion, and not your kind. You could have taken the hint.

If you have an opinion that is persuasive or meaningful, by all means, please express it. The comment I deleted was personal and contributed nothing to the discussion.


March 28, 2009 9:37 AM  
Blogger Tish said...

Robert I am sorry that I have let your request and the anon comment sit unanswered for three days. I have begun to comment several times but what could I say to follow that exchange? You say that you see indifference to the fate of gay men and anon comes along and proves you right.

In the last year I have embarked on a new avocation as a sexuality educator. In a program specifically designed to be inclusive I have found educators who are blind to the ways they marginalize gay men in their presentations of the material. (Often by not using the language of the curriculum and instead using more common vernacular phrases in which homophobia is embedded and unaddressed.)

The good news is that I have found the other educators in this program to be very open to understanding what's going on and how to change it. I spent last weekend at a conference about sexuality education in which we focused on eliminating bias in comprehensive sexuality education. More and more people understand.

The bad news is that there are still many people like anon. When someone sees all gay men as walking one-man death squads, how can he be expected to care about the health needs of gay boys? As far as he's concerned, your data are simply more proof that gay=disease=death.

All of our boys deserve better.

March 28, 2009 10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As far as he's concerned, your data are simply more proof that gay=disease=death."

Well, that's what the data indicates. Robert, of course, realized that and tried to shift the focus right off the bat.

It's an inconvenient truth for those who wish to see homosexual practices spread.

The truth, which is undeniable, is that if schools make kids with some homosexual tendencies feel comfortable about indulging those tendencies, the result will be more early deaths.

Dream all the fairy tales you want, the real world still won't go away.

March 28, 2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Passerby said...

Anon, I think a lot of people here are wondering. Do you actually belief the bullshit you say?

March 28, 2009 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you mean the notion that homosexuality is dangerous for those who engage in it, yes i do

you don't believe this happy horsecrap that it's just another part of the wonderful rainbow of lifestyles, do you?

that's a fairy tale with a unicorn prancing around in it

March 28, 2009 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

I have to confess that I was speaking entirely off the cuff. My statement that gay men and boys are disproportionately affected by HPV cancers was entirely speculative. I have never read nor heard anyone else make that statement, nor do I have any resources or data to back it up.

I apologize for the sloppiness. For a number of reasons, I feel strongly that boys as well as girls should receive the HPV vaccine, and I was speaking out of pique.


March 28, 2009 5:31 PM  
Blogger Tish said...

Robert, I agree with you. I have two sons and one daughter and I favor getting the vaccine to all of them. My daughter is on the upper limit of the recommendations for the vaccine, and has not been on my family's health plan since she graduated from college. My son's cannot get coverage for the vaccine because of their sex.

Regardless of cancer outcomes by gender, if man are vectors for the viruses, we should be trying to stop the spread of the disease in both males and females.

All of our boys deserve better.

March 29, 2009 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

You said it very well, Tish.


March 29, 2009 3:01 PM  

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