by Donika Rexhepi.
A recent Republican debate brought to light the discussion over the HPV vaccine. Texas governor Rick Perry, who hopes to run against President Obama on the Republican ticket, issued an executive order mandating that all teenage girls in his state get vaccinated for the Human Papillomavirus. HPV, as it’s known, is the nation’s most common sexually transmitted infection, and untreated can lead to cervical cancer in women. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that girls receive the vaccine, Gardasil, at the age of 11 or 12, so that they are protected from the virus before having sexual contact.
Though Perry’s order was overturned, during the debate earlier this fall, his opponent, Michele Bachmann, fired back that his decision isn’t appropriate for a governor to make. She added that whether girls get vaccinated or not is up to parents to decide in consultation with their doctors.
But even as the debate raged about whether or not to give girls the vaccine, late last month, a federal government advisory committee issued a recommendation that boys 11 to 21 also be vaccinated against HPV. Boys and men are the other half of the problem that people seem to forget. HPV is especially difficult in males because it is not easy to spot and lacks of symptoms and methods of screening.
So where does that leave men on campus? Most of the HPV controversy involves whether or not to vaccinate children. As these arguments continue, what do college men think? Should they get vaccinated?
Most have no idea. Though studies show that more than half of men who are sexually active in the United States will have HPV in their lifetimes, a survey conducted at CCNY last month, found that many men ages 18-26 did not know the dangers of the virus. Most felt that HPV is only a women’s disease. Also 30 percent of CCNY men in the survey were not aware of the HPV vaccine Gardasil.
Gabe McFarlane, like many other men at CCNY, lacks knowledge about HPV. “As of recent I have read and seen the letters ‘HPV’ on the news or my TV screen but I haven’t quite figured out what it is yet,” he says.
The primary benefits of vaccinating men include 90 percent protection against genital warts; anal, penile and other cancers; and preventing transmission of HPV to sexual partners. The vaccine is recommended for “permissive use” in men ages 22-26. The Kaiser Family Foundation notes that those already infected with HPV can benefit from the vaccine because it can prevent infection against HPV strains they may not have contracted. But the vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections.
After being told that 6 million Americans are diagnosed every year, and that 74 percent of cases occur in 15 to 24 year old men AND women, McFarlane was surprised. “I had no idea men were the carriers of HPV,” says McFarlane, a 26-year old economics major. “I also thought it was a women’s issue.”
Michelle Sasson, a CCNY engineering major, believes it’s time that men learn the facts and get the shot. “I think it’s only fair that men get vaccinated and become aware that HPV is not only for women,” she says.
For more information, on Wednesday, November 30th, from 12pm-2pm, Trinity Communications, a group of City College MCA students, will host an HPV awareness event. Come to NAC 1/209 to learn the facts about HPV in men, especially men of color. Take advantage of free food, drinks, T-shirts and games.