HPV Propaganda

My wife picked up a pamphlet (not sure where) that says on the front of it: “You’d tell her she has lipstick on her teeth. So why wouldn’t you tell her about a virus that can cause cancer?” In other words, be a friend, why don’t you, and tell your girlfriends that they can get cervical cancer from human papillomavirus (HPV).

The pamphlet full of scary stuff like:

Cervical cancer is caused by certain types of a common virus…Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer and abnormal cervical cells. Other types can cause genital warts. And because HPV often has no signs or symptoms, many people [!] don’t know they have it. …

It could happen to you…The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80% of women will have had genital HPV by age 50…It’s estimated that many people get HPV within their first 2 to 3 years of becoming sexually active.

Oh, but wait, Merck [oh, yeah, didn’t I tell you who puts out the pamphlet?] has answers for you:

According to the CDC, the only way you can totally protect yourself against HPV is to avoid any sexual contact that involves genital contact. There are a few things you can do to decrease your chances:

  • Limit your sexual partners.
  • Stay in a long-term, exclusive relationship with someone who doesn’t have HPV.
  • Use a condom–though it’s unknown how much protection from HPV condoms actually provide.

The CDC knows what’s what, but we all know you’re going to have sex anyway (I think it’s a right guaranteed in the Constitution somewhere), so practice “safer” sex. “Limit” your sexual partners. (I’m wondering what the limit is. How’s five? Ten?) And don’t forget your rubber. (We don’t actually think it will do you any good, but the Condom Safety Dogma asserts that we must recommend it as often as possible.)

On the back of the pamphlet: “Cervical cancer is caused by a virus many people get in their teens and 20s. Find out more.” According to the pamphlet itself, cervical cancer is only caused by “high-risk” types of HPV. (For some reason, they insist on putting “high-risk” within quotation marks. Does that mean that they’re not really high-risk? “We just call them that because we don’t want to say ‘dangerous’ or ‘cancer-causing.'”) But all HPV types that “affect the genital area” are STDs.

That is, in order to get cancer-causing HPV, you must have had “sexual contact.” Condoms won’t help. And, apparently, you’re not going to be able to control teenage hormones. So Merck is here to help, with a vaccine that they aim to make mandatory. Just get your middle-schooler vaccinated with Merck’s vaccine against cervical cancer (which, remember, comes from a “common” STD) and everything will be great. Now they can sleep around with impunity and take even less responsibility for their actions. And you, the parent, can take less responsibility as well. Whew, got that STD vaccine taken care of; don’t have to worry anymore–especially with AIDS vaccines (it will come), the morning-after pill, and abortion to take care of any other unwanted diseases. Sex is just for fun. Let’s keep it that way.

Timotheos

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20 thoughts on “HPV Propaganda

  1. Timtheos,

    I hope that you don’t know anyone who has been sexually assaulted or coerced into sex. For my part, I’m very, very thankful that there are medical advances to protect womens’ health, since our culture does not encourage men to do value women or their safety.

    I think people are right to be suspicious of Merck’s very slick ad campaign because it is, after all, an ad campaign – and with questionable drugs like Alli being marketed out there in a similar way, you can’t be too careful. So to that end, I dug around the CDC, the NHI, the FDA, and a few other websites to compare available information about Gardasil and HPV. From my research, it looks like the Merck info checks out. You can read it all here:
    http://sexcalumny.net/2007/06/01/hpv-gardasil-infopage/
    Obviously I don’t have the same opinions about sexual propriety that you do, but I do feel very strongly about good healthcare and dependable medical information.

  2. “I hope that you don’t know anyone who has been sexually assaulted or coerced into sex. For my part, I’m very, very thankful that there are medical advances to protect womens’ health, since our culture does not encourage men to do value women or their safety.”

    I hope that you don’t either. I didn’t say the drug should be outlawed; if you’ve been assaulted, you should take every precaution to protect yourself against disease–and I don’t count pregnancy among those diseases.

    I think the fact that men do not value women or their safety is concomitant with the rise of radical feminism and the claims that men should not treat women as a “weaker vessel,” nor should they act in any way that might be construed as “protective,” and that women have just as much “right” to promiscuous sex as men do. Therefore, women act in ways that had been previously attributed to (bad) men, and then wonder where those (gentle)men went. I’m all for a return of high male valuation of women and their safety. Unfortunately, the radical feminists have done well in their campaign to dispense with such outmoded notions as chivalry.

    I don’t think it’s just a hunch either. Read Wendy Shalit or Dawn Eden.

    Tim

  3. Unfortunately I do, which is partly why I can’t help but comment on posts about disease and pregnancy prevention when I see them pop up. I think that the more people understand about how these things work, the less they’ll have the knee-jerk “It promotes immorality!” reaction.

    If you’ve read any radical feminism, which seems unlikely from your comment, you’ll realize that (like most strains of feminism) it is principally pro-womens’ safety as well as womens’ autonomy and equality . I certainly haven’t read anything that encourages women to “behave like bad men” –but I’ll try not to rule out that such things exist. I’m more interested in the positively silly idea that a late twentieth century movement is responsible for an age-old phenomenon. Violence against women is nothing new – and many old codes of “protecting women” also prevented them legal recourse for the violence against them, including (perhaps especially) that which took place within the supposedly sacred bonds of marriage. I think high evaluation of women is a great idea, but it’s a mistake to think that women were safer in bygone days before they started speaking up for their rights.

  4. I think it is important to remember that there are people out there like me who did not engage in risky sexual behavior, was only in manogamous long term relationships and delayed any sexual activity until later in life and I still got cervical cancer from HPV. Why is it not ok for women to have a vaccine to protect themselves? Would it be ok to have a vaccine for HPV if it made men’s penises fall off? Why are women not worth protecting?

    The only other way to protect yourself from this cancer causing virus is to become a nun. And for those of us who want to get married and have kids that isn’t an option. So stop being such a hipocrite and start caring about the women in your life, and think about what happens when they start dying of all kinds of cancer (HPV is linked to colon, breast and throat cancers) in their 40’s and 50’s and no one knows why. (it is also transmittable by skin contact, not necessarily only sexual contact, that is why the percentage of people who get it is so high)

  5. Yikes.

    “I think that the more people understand about how these things work, the less they’ll have the knee-jerk ‘It promotes immorality!’ reaction.”

    Timotheos did emphasize that his opposition to the vaccine was not directed toward usage to prevent disease when an assault occurred. The problem with the vaccine and the accompanying literature is the problem we see so regularly when talking about sex: the statement that “people are going to have sex anyway, let’s just make it “safe” for them.” That doesn’t promote immorality?

    A deeper, underlying problem with the above quote is the assumption that information, i.e. Science, can lead us to the right decisions. Science has very little to say about morality and, as was stated, the opposition is to the philosophy surrounding the vaccine. More information will not change my view that Merck’s pamphlet is part of a pervasive view that says sex outside of marriage is okay (because we have medicine to solve any problems).

    In response to theprotagonist5’s point that the disease is transmittable by skin contact: I don’t think just any skin contact (like a handshake) will spread the disease.

  6. The “protagonist” said: “Why is it not ok for women to have a vaccine to protect themselves? Would it be ok to have a vaccine for HPV if it made men’s penises fall off? Why are women not worth protecting?”

    Seriously? You should really read the other comments before replying. Of course, if you had, you would have seen that I had written this: “I didn’t say the drug should be outlawed; if you’ve been assaulted, you should take every precaution to protect yourself against disease–and I don’t count pregnancy among those diseases.”

    According to Merck’s own pamphlet, it is only the “high-risk” types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. High-risk means STD. Come on, you’re not getting an STD from a handshake–unless that’s a euphemism for something else.

    My bigger problem with Merck’s propaganda is the scare-tactic of saying things like, “It could happen to you…” And the protagonist agrees: “The only other way to protect yourself from this cancer causing virus is to become a nun. And for those of us who want to get married and have kids that isn’t an option. So stop being such a hipocrite and start caring about the women in your life, and think about what happens when they start dying of all kinds of cancer (HPV is linked to colon, breast and throat cancers) in their 40’s and 50’s and no one knows why.” Give me a break. Since you brought it up, I’ll ask. Are you seriously telling me that neither you nor your partner had sex with someone with the sexually transmitted HPV, and that it somehow magically appeared, and then you got cancer? I am sorry that happened to you, but don’t tell me that it could happen to two virgins who get married. (I know! What a radical concept!) Sorry, not sure what is “hipocritical” about my position.

    As with the AIDS hysteria, it is simply not true to say that “anyone can get it” and start scaring people into getting AIDS tests (or Pap tests, in this case). I can’t get AIDS (except in the extremely rare case that I get a bad blood transfusion), nor can I get the sexually transmitted HPV.

    In other words, you don’t have to become a nun, but you do have to be chaste.

    Tim

  7. JPW – at this point in time, the vaccine cannot be used directly to prevent disease when an assault has occurred. Immunity has to be built up over a 6-month period with 3 shots. (As you’d know if you perused an infopage, like mine, or the CDC’s, or the FDA’s.) Therefore, in order to be effective, the vaccine must be taken as a preventative, not as a curative. I’m not sure which diseases Timotheos meant when he said it’s all right to protect yourself against diseases when you’ve been assaulted – but as far as I know, there isn’t any drug in circulation that can do that for any STDs. In other words, if you’ve been assaulted it’s already too late to protect yourself against disease unless you’ve been vaccinated previously.

    Now, I disagree with you and Timotheos on a pretty fundamental belief – that having sex outside of marriage is immoral – and I can’t see the point of arguing about that, since neither of us will change our minds. What I *would* like to discuss, though, are points that information could affect. More information might not change your view that morality is going down the tubes, JPW, but it should change your view about a few things, such as who becomes infected with HPV and why.

    For example, the skin transmission of HPV. What I understand from my own doctor and the information on national health sites is that: HPV spreads primarily through the contact of sexual organs; infrequently but occasionally, the virus can pass from sex organs to another mucous membrane such as the mouth; more infrequently but still occasionally, the virus can be carried on hands, but only as long as the sexual fluid is wet. So it’s true that HPV is primarily an STD; it is also true that there are nonsexual ways to pass it. My doctor had me erase “STD” from my health record and check some other box because, in his words, “You can get that thing from trying on swimsuits.” It’s also weirdly frequent for women to contract the virus while giving birth. (I have no idea why that is, but if I ever find out I’ll put it on my infopage).

    That point is mainly for Timotheos: two virgins could marry, remain faithful, and later contract HPV. It’s unusual, but it has happened.

    But that wasn’t the point theprotagonist5 was trying to make. She says that she never engaged in any risky sexual behavior – and let’s believe her because, even though we don’t know her, we do know many other women who fit that description. So theprotagonist5 or any other hypothetical virgin marries a man who may not have had a pristine sexual past; maybe she knows that, maybe she doesn’t. Regardless, despite keeping her body pure and unsullied for her husband, she develops uncomfortable lesions inside her body which become cancerous. Any number of painful scenarios could follow – perhaps she survives chemo and radiation, perhaps there is a hysterectomy, perhaps she catches it too late (because she wasn’t “scared into getting a Pap smear”) and dies. Any of those scenarios could have been prevented by previously being vaccinated, and I doubt it would have affected her sexual choices more than the existence of condoms and birth control do. She didn’t do anything you think is wrong; does she deserve cancer?

    So guys, we’ll never agree on whether Merck et. al. are promoting immorality or not, but could we maybe agree on this: isn’t it better to protect the innocent even if you also protect sinners, rather than to punish the wicked and consequently punish (possibly destroy) the innocent?

  8. “So it’s true that HPV is primarily an STD; it is also true that there are nonsexual ways to pass it.”

    There are, what, 100 types of HPV? And, from Merck’s pamphlet, there are 30 genital types. Which are we talking about? How many of them cause cancer, and against which ones is Merck’s drug effective?

    “So theprotagonist5 or any other hypothetical virgin marries a man who may not have had a pristine sexual past; maybe she knows that, maybe she doesn’t.”

    I’m willing to concede a lot of things to people who get married. But if I’m willing to do that, why don’t we agree that the majority of people who are going to receive this vaccination have either no intention of marrying the people with whom they are having sex, or they want to have some “fun” before they get married. I’m talking about the majority of people, not some hypothetical exception that may or may not exist.

    Mine, and I’m guessing JPW’s as well, is a broader ethical point. Ethics do not take place in the margins for the most part. Ethics are how you live day to day, which produce your character, and that’s what I’m concerned about here. I could allow you to make your point based on exceptions, but, in my view, that would produce very little of value.

    Tim

  9. There are, what, 100 types of HPV? And, from Merck’s pamphlet, there are 30 genital types. Which are we talking about? How many of them cause cancer, and against which ones is Merck’s drug effective?

    Those questions could be answered with a quick Google search, but since you’re not interested in looking up facts, I’ll spoonfeed them to you. Gardasil prevents against four types of HPV: 6, 11, 16, and 18. 6 and 11 cause about 90% of all genital wart cases. 16 and 18 cause 70% of all cervical cancer cases. The other strains are less frequent, harder to discern, and protection against them has not yet been developed. As far as I know, all of these strains share transmissibility by mucous tissue contact, so it’s possible for any of them to be passed sexually or nonsexually. (And don’t forget nonconsensually.)

    In 2006, over 9,700 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,700 women died from this cancer in the U.S. Since HPV is known to cause 70% of cervical cancer, let’s do the math: HPV caused cancer in 6,790 and killed 2,590 of them. That is a LOT of women.

    To me, it’s not okay that any of those women died from cervical cancer – that would be the difference between my “broader ethical point” and yours. But let me pretend I’m you for a minute, and pretend that I think cervical cancer is a just punishment for immoral behavior, and that I think that “the vast majority” of people are immoral. I’d still want to think about that slim minority of rape victims and women who got HPV some other weird way, like theprotagonist5. Let’s pretend they comprise 1% of the HPV-linked cervical cancer population. (Wouldn’t the world be a much better place if only 1% of any group of women suffered from rape?) So with the 2006 statistics that’s still…. 68 innocent women with cervical cancer, 2 of whom died.

    More about my ethics: I think that’s still too many. I think that the lives of those hypothetical women do have value, and that they are worth thinking about. You can see why I don’t think there’s any excuse for being anti- HPV vaccination.

  10. “But let me pretend I’m you for a minute, and pretend that I think cervical cancer is a just punishment for immoral behavior, and that I think that “the vast majority” of people are immoral.”

    Where did I say that cervical cancer is a just punishment for any behavior, immoral or otherwise? And for the record, I take a high view of sin and a low view of human nature, so I’d be more inclined to go with 100% of people as immoral.

    “I think that the lives of those hypothetical women do have value, and that they are worth thinking about. You can see why I don’t think there’s any excuse for being anti- HPV vaccination.”

    Again, and for the last time, how do my views make me “anti-HPV vaccination”? Re-read; or else I could “spoonfeed” you my earlier comments. Further, how do my views contradict the fact that all people have value, whatever that means, and that they are worth “thinking about”?

    Tim

  11. Where did I say that cervical cancer is a just punishment for any behavior, immoral or otherwise?

    You didn’t, but it’s the necessary outcome of the words you did say, such as: “Just get your middle-schooler vaccinated with Merck’s vaccine against cervical cancer (which, remember, comes from a “common” STD) and everything will be great. Now they can sleep around with impunity and take even less responsibility for their actions. ”

    There are two opposites to “sleeping around with impunity”: not having sex, and having sex with punishing consequences. (I deliberately switched to this phrase because I think it’s important to remember that HPV is not necessarily a consequence of “sleeping around”.) It’s clear that you’re most interested in the former, but what I am trying to clarify is that if people get all het up about the “people can sleep around with impunity!” part to the point that they would like to abolish it, then they necessarily enact the latter – people will be punished for having sex, even if they have been chaste.

    how do my views contradict the fact that all people have value, whatever that means, and that they are worth “thinking about”?

    Right here: “the majority of people who are going to receive this vaccination have either no intention of marrying the people with whom they are having sex, or they want to have some “fun” before they get married. I’m talking about the majority of people, not some hypothetical exception that may or may not exist. . . . I could allow you to make your point based on exceptions, but, in my view, that would produce very little of value.”

    Dismiss the possibility that there are exceptions to your rule = dismiss the people who exist as exceptions to that rule.

    I’m not really interested in getting into an argument about word choice. My main goal was to introduce some data and point to some holes in the OP – I don’t expect to change your stance completely, but I do hope it’s evident that there is a strong movement to protect women alongside or even more than your perceived movement to make immorality more accessible, and that medical advances like this one are essential to womens’ health. That is, to me, the real point.

  12. As a parent, I get tired of the “If you care, you’ll have your daughter vaccinated” comments that I’ve heard so often since this vaccine came out. Parents aren’t harming their children by taking the time to watch and research new vaccines and/or medications, but that seems hard to impress upon my local government officials who want to try and make this vaccine mandatory.

    I have to problem with a vaccine like this being available, but I *hate* the strong-arm tactics that have come along closely at it’s heels. If a woman wants to get the vaccine, good for her. However, I don’t think that it has been around long enough to truly evaluate it’s effectiveness in the long-run. While I have no problem with the vaccine itself, it’s a terrible day one’s government steps in to act as “parent”.

  13. Yes I am saying that 2 virgins can, have and will get HPV. It isn’t trackable in it’s early stages, but when they find a way to track whether you have it immediatley you will find that it is being transmitted in non-sexual ways and that anyone and everyone is at risk. With more than 100 strains though and everyone’s varying immune systems not everyone reacts by getting cancer. Most people work through it and never get cancer, I wasn’t so lucky. You never know though what your reaction is going to be to any one of those strains and especially the top 4-8 which people get cancer from most often.

  14. Be more specific. Of course they will get HPV–strains of HPV cause common warts. But, just as naturally, they will not get the sexually transmitted types. And, according to my information, it is those types which cause cancer.

    Tim

  15. Still wrong. Information available and included in this thread already establishes that (a) the four major types of HPV transmit by mucous skin contact and can therefore be transmitted by nonsexual means, (b) the four major HPV types are sometimes transmitted by nonsexual means, and (c) any type of HPV virus can cause cancer if it causes a lesion and the lesion is not caught and treated; it’s just that two types of the virus are now known to be responsible for most cases of HPV.

    Hey, some sites that confirm that HPV can be transmitted by nonsexual means.
    http://www.csun.edu/~shcenter/downloads/InfoCardPDF/HPV.pdf
    http://www.eyesontheprize.org/cgi-local/askpro.cgi?ID=26
    http://www.arhp.org/files/HPVQRG.pdf (page 6)
    http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/A%20Patient%20Guide%20%20%20HPV%20in%20Perspective.pdf (page 4)

    But if you only look at one, try this one (read under Slide 8): http://www.baylorcme.org/hpv2/presentations/livengood/presentation_text.html

    None of this is directly related to my points, precisely, but I hate to see people like theprotagonist5 get ragged on just because your information is not correct.

  16. Pingback: HPV Transmission «

  17. Even if I grant you that premarital sex is necessarily immoral and wrong in all cases (which I don’t), does that mean to you that women who engage in premarital sex, even women who are promiscuous, deserve to get cervical cancer? Shouldn’t we aim to protect people and prevent their pain and suffering, whether or not we agree with their choices?

  18. This is a very real disease with very real issues. I know tons of people that have this disease including myself. Its staggering how many people my age really have this disease and are being so open about it. I think all this publication rally helped it out alot and even just the word of mouth is already helping our community.

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