Payin’ the Bills

Time for some catch up, ladies and gents! Apologies that I missed my followup yesterday, my internet cut off while I was writing this post. (go figure) Let’s get down to business: Vaccination and women’s health.

Once again Labour proves its health and feminist credentials by paying the $164 million bill to vaccinate girls for the human papillomavirus. (HPV) This virus is a major cause of cervical cancer in women, and women who recieve the vaccination are likely to roughly halve their chances of contracting cervical cancer. My one large disappointment is that there is no plan to vaccinate boys- while the virus very rarely has symptoms in men, (Julie from The Hand Mirror points out that it also causes penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancer in some cases, which checks out, although harmful consequences of HPV for men are rare) we can minimise the spread of HPV to people who have not been vaccinated by giving the vaccine to as many people as possible. Vaccinating girls only guarentees the safety of the girls themselves, while offering the vaccination for free to the entire population can largely wipe out the effects of the virus. Still, this is an impressive start, and parents can still pay to vaccinate their boys if they want to protect them from the very rare male symptoms, or ensure against the possibility of him carrying the virus on to his partners (male or female) later down the track.

There are risks to vaccination, of course, and it’s important to preserve the ideal of denial of treatment for that reason, and everyone who is considering being vaccinated or has a child who will be eligible should educate themselves to the risks. But for the majority of people, getting this vaccination will simply be a great way to reduce their risk, or the risk for their partners, of a particularly nasty type of cancer.

I want to make it very clear that this is primarily a health issue, however. While HPV is transmitted by sex, you can also catch it from your mother, or from a partner who has previously been sexually active. It is one of the most common STIs out there. Among the ages most likely to be sexually active, the share of the population with HPV can be as high as 75% in countries like the USA with poor STI treatment, and a typical rule of thumb is that 66% of the population is likely to be infected. With even one failed relationship more likely to have infected you than not, this virus is an issue for anyone who is sexually active, not just the “promiscuous”. Having had a relative die to cancer, (the likely culprit was DDT, however) I can say it’s certainly not something you’d want to just bet on you and your partner avoiding by luck. The treatments are grueling and uncomfortable enough without the extra challange added by the fact that cervical cancer is in a place that makes treatment incredibly invasive.

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