[NVIC feb 2006] Spreading Misinformation About HPV

Vienna, Virginia http://www.nvic.org

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"Protecting the health and informed consent rights of children since 1982."

BL Fisher Note:

The drumbeat to mandate an HPV vaccine for all adolescents is beginning. And
pro-forced vaccination proponents beating the drum are using a familiar
tactic: create factual myths that create fear while mischaracterizing the
concerns of those who oppose forced use of vaccines. Vaccines for sexually
transmitted diseases, such as hepatitis B and HPV, should not be mandated.

STANFORD DAILY - February 10, 2006
HPV editorial needs clarification

By Selena Simmons-Duffin &Margot Isman
Guest Columnist , Guest Columnist
Friday, February 10, 2006

Wednesday's editorial on Human papilloma virus ("Spread love, not HPV," Feb.
8) was misguided and inaccurate. While we applaud the Stanford Daily's
willingness to educate our community about this little known virus, we were
very concerned about the potential ramifications of publishing misleading
information on an issue as volatile and sensitive as a Sexually Transmitted
Infection (STI). We believe that the Daily intended only to raise awareness,
and we hope they will continue to consider other similarly important issues
in the future. However, it is also important that the community have access
to accurate and well-researched information. This article attempts to set
the record straight. HPV, by itself, does not kill anyone. HPV, by itself,
does not kill anyone. According to the Daily, 5,000 people die of HPV each
year. However, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), this is
the number of women who die from cervical cancer in the United States. Also,
there are over 100 strains of HPV, 30 of which are transmitted sexually, and
only two of which are pre-cancerous. It is only those two strains that are
responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

It is estimated that 20 million people are infected with HPV in the United
States today (and an astounding 80% of women are infected by the time they
are 50), but the rate of cervical cancer is actually very low. This is
because in the United States, many women have regular pap smears, which can
detect HPV and allow for monitoring and early detection and treatment of
cervical cancer if it develops. Unfortunately, pap smears are much less
common in other parts of the world, and cervical cancer is the third most
common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women
worldwide. Since the best predictor of cervical cancer is HPV, the
development of an HPV vaccine is very exciting and its global implementation
will save lives an estimated 200,000 lives each year.

The HPV vaccine, developed by Merck Incorporated, has received priority
consideration for approval by the FDA. Adding the HPV vaccine to the list of
those required for attendance at public schools would ensure that a high
percentage of the population receives it, maximizing its effectiveness. The
next step in ensuring this outcome is for the Advisory Committee on
Immunization Practices-a subset of the Centers for Disease Control-to adopt
the vaccine to the list of vaccines that are mandatory for entrance into
high school.

The most distressing aspect of the Daily's article on HPV was the statement
that its victims also suffer from "ulcerated masses that cause bleeding and
tear apart the walls of internal organs." We're honestly not sure where this
idea comes from, but it was irresponsible to suggest this without citing a
reputable source. Cervical cancer does cause tumors, but to the best of our
knowledge they rarely rupture. It is also frightening for the young women
who have been diagnosed with HPV to read this misinformation. The vast
majority of people who are diagnosed with HPV will never develop any
symptoms of the virus, and the American Social Health Association reports
that 3 out of 4 people from the ages of 15 to 44 have the virus. The
Editorial Board owes them an apology for potentially frightening and
stigmatizing these members of our community.

Although the Daily's intentions were honorable in attempting to inform our
community about a lesser known and very prevalent STI, the Board failed to
accurately represent the virus itself, its effects, and its political
status. HPV certainly requires more attention by the medical, activist, and
especially media communities. We hope that HPV continues to be talked about
in a constructive, informative context, but we also hope that in the future
the Daily takes more care to accurately represent the facts.

Selena Simmons-Duffin and Margot Isman are the co-directors of the Roosevelt
Institution Center on Women and Gender, Stanford Chapter. They can be
reached at selenasd@stanford.edu and misman@stanford.edu.

Editor's note: Our editorial was intended to address possible opposition to
the HPV vaccine being put on the list of approved vaccines, and not intended
as a judgment of the FDA review process. The editorial also states that HPV
is a cause of cervical cancer, which in turn causes death, although we could
have been clearer on that point.

STANFORD DAILY - February 8, 2006 Print Article Close Window
Spread love, not HPV

By Editorial Board

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

It's Friday night, and you come home from a frat party where you hooked up
with a guy. Next thing you know, you have HPV and a possibility of
developing cervical cancer. While not as infamous as HIV or gonorrhea, Human
papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted disease that kills 5,000 women
each year, is more easily transmissible than HIV, and was found in 32% of
female college students in a recent study conducted at Washington State
University. What's even worse is that it's completely preventable. While it
infects both men and women, HPV is the only proven cause of cervical cancer,
which only kills women. It cannot be prevented by condom use, and is often
asymptomatic and dormant, thus facilitating rapid transmission and slow
detection. Victims of HPV suffer from painful tumors that grow as ulcerated
masses that cause bleeding and tear apart the walls of internal organs, thus
making the inaccessibility of preventative measures even more unforgivable.

Thanks to self-described "family values" proponents on Capitol Hill and
within the current administration, a recently approved vaccine for HPV has
been backlogged for distribution and blocked from being added to the list of
approved vaccines routinely given to young girls before they reach puberty.
According to organizations such as the Christian lobby group Family Research
Council, abstinence is the "best" way to prevent HPV, and making a vaccine
more readily available to all girls would only encourage promiscuous
behavior. Even with the hypothetical consideration that premarital sex is
immoral, sending the message that premarital sex is punishable by death is
nothing short of ludicrous. On top of this, our policymakers have failed to
consider the effects of the disease on women who are raped or those who have
not been promiscuous, yet still contract the virus from partners.

At first glance, the arguments of the evangelical right against the HPV
vaccine are reminiscent of similar arguments made against the distribution
of the morning-after pill. But the similarities end when one considers the
fact that withholding the HPV vaccine is equivalent to condoning the
senseless, needless deaths of several thousand women in this country. There
is not - and never will be - anything moral about refusing medical treatment
to those who are at risk of dying, in an effort to shape sexual behavior.
Denying a form of disease prevention for a disease that disproportionately
affects women is not only an issue of ethics, but of gender equality as

In the end, the HPV vaccine story is quite simple: if you have any women in
your life who are important to you, this affects you. There is no reason why
the current government should be able to pass judgment on women who may not
have a choice in whether or not they get the virus. There is no legitimate
ethical barrier to offering a form of prevention that has already been
developed and tested. And there is no reason why any woman should have to
choose between virginity and death.

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