Women's HPV Vaccination
By Aleena Zirvi (‘22)
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections vaccine, as noted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is responsible for the prevention of cervical cancer caused by HPV in young women. HPV is a category of over 100 viruses, all related, contracted through “intimate skin-to-skin contact”, not just sexual contact.
HiTOPS advisor Ms. Cristina Janis said, “HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that is extremely common and most people don't even know they have it because its is often asymptomatic. The virus often leads to cervical cancer in women and anal cancer in men and it could lead to genital warts in both men and women. That is why the CDC and most doctors recommend the vaccination. However, it is not a mandatory vaccination. It is up to the parent of the child or the individual when they turn 18 to get the vaccination.”
Although HPV can be spread to men, advocates say that it is imperative for women to be vaccinated because of harmful symptoms HPV can bring.
According to research conducted by SBHS nurse Mrs. Donna Moreen, one of the most significant variables of this issue is the lack of awareness of the vaccine. Although recommended by physicians for young women to receive the vaccine around their freshman to junior year of high school, there are no standards put in place requiring the vaccine to be administered.
Simultaneously, stigmas around STIs and STDs do, unfortunately, exist in cultures nationwide, preventing a more wide-spread administration of the vaccine.
Authors at The Conversation said “The stigma associated with STIs remains a pervasive barrier to testing. Some participants in our study reported they were worried about their reputation, if they were seen going for a test.”
This is also the situation for women when being vaccinated. In many cultures, being sexually active, especially before marriage, is seen as disgraceful and shameful. For this reason, many families believe the vaccine is not necessary if their child will be practicing abstinence.
Anyone could be infected with HPV, even future spouses, which is why women should still be vaccinated even if practicing abstinence.
SBHS does its part in creating awareness by assuring that its staff and health & wellness personnel are fully informed and equipped with the knowledge of this epidemic. This is done through groups such as HiTOPS and the Public Health club, which advocate for the importance of means of prevention such as the HPV vaccine.
Nurse Moreen explained, “[School nurses] act as a liaison between families and physicians [and that those] with positive attitudes towards HPV [prevention]...had stronger perceptions as health care advocates resulting in a higher HPV vaccination uptake.”
Since many of the female students at SBHS are at this age, it is important that this conversation take place toward the goal of prevention. Nurse Moreen urges everyone to be vaccinated and make themselves aware of the STI and its effects.
The CDC states, “Nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected [by HPV] in the United States.”
Advocates say that HPV is a large-scale issue that lacks the attention and acknowledgment it urgently needs. Since many are left in the dark regarding the virus and its repercussions, the problem continues to grow. Women need to be made aware of the vaccine and its benefits so that this generation and future generations are protected from the effects of HPV.