HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is currently the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is so common that nearly every sexually active male or female will have it at some point. The types of HPV that are of concern are those that cause genital warts or cause cancer of the reproductive organs and throat (oropharyngeal cancer). As it may take years for the cancer to develop after infection with the virus, there is absolutely no way to pinpoint the timeline of infection, which brings us to the topic of prevention in the form of vaccination.
As of now, there are several prophylactic HPV vaccines like Gardasil, Gardasil 9, Cervarix. The target age for the vaccines vary from country to country but are primarily between 9-13 years. The vaccines do not treat an existing infection so it is imperative that the vaccines are administered prior to the start of sexual activity. The CDC has published records comparing the rates of infection before and after the introduction of the aforementioned vaccines and the results are pretty impressive. Yet the administration of these vaccines have been on the lower side. Reasons for this include the lack of information and recommendation by one’s doctor, parents misinformed or in denial, very few state level mandates, and the lack of communication and information in the school system.
Although the vaccines for HPV have been pushed for girls, with some countries exceeding 70% vaccination rates and reduced cancer rates since 2006, very little has been done for the same regarding boys until at least 2011. This can be disturbing when considering that 78% of all HPV-associated cancers in men are oropharyngeal cancers and is rising 5% every year and has surpassed cervical cancer in women. Unlike Pap and HPV screening for cervical cancer, no screening exists for oropharyngeal cancer. Thus the incidence of HPV-associated cancers will continue to rise unless we educate our peers to vaccinate boys and girls equally starting at 9 years old. The more boys and girls that are vaccinated before sexual activity, the less likelihood will be seen of HPV-related disease. For more information, head on to www.adolescentvaccination.org to learn about HPV and other diseases that can easily be prevented by vaccination programs.Source: The Lancet
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