All About the HPV Hype

The human papillomavirus (HPV) has been making its rounds in the news and has become somewhat of a hot topic. There is a vaccine to protect against HPV, and is viewed by some as controversial, so here are the facts before making your personal decision on whether or not to have your teenage daughter vaccinated.

The Infection

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Sexual intercourse is not necessary to get infected. Anyone who has any sexual activity (skin-to-skin contact from one person to another during oral, vaginal or anal sexual acts) is at risk for acquiring HPV. At some point in their lives, 3 out of 4 sexually active women will

acquire HPV. There are more than 100 types of HPV. Two types cause 70 per cent of cancer of the cervix in women. Two other types cause 90 per cent of genital warts in women and men. An HPV infection will clear on its own, but for some women, HPV will not go away and cells infected with the virus can become cancerous over time. Though the HPV vaccine can prevent some specific types of HPV, there is no treatment. Girls are best protected when they get the vaccine prior to becoming sexually active

The Vaccine

There is currently a vaccine on the market to help protect against HPV called Gardasil. Gardasil protects against two types of Human Papillomaviruses that cause most cervical cancers. It also protects against two types of HPV that cause most genital warts. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over a six month period and is recommended for girls between the ages of 9 and 26 years. It will protect against acquiring the virus but doesn’t treat the virus if the infection has already occurred.

Within many school districts, the vaccine has been publicly funded in a school based program for girls in grade 6 and grade 9. For girls not covered by the school-based program, please talk to your doctor. Although studies are looking at how the vaccine would work on males, there is currently not recommendation for boys to receive the HPV vaccine. Gardasil does not protect against all cancers of the cervix and it is still important to encourage your daughter to have a regular Pap exam once they have become sexually active.

Vaccinating is a personal choice and when it comes to your child’s health and safety, it is important to be well informed. You can’t protect your children from everything, so start with what you can.

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