During the CNN/Tea Party debate in Florida, one topic in particular became the focal point of attack on Texas Governor Rick Perry. Congresswoman Bachmann, in particular, went on the offensive against Governor Perry on this issue.
The topic continues to be debated from the political side of things, in regards to the motives of Governor Perry’s decision, the fact still remains that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a very real disease with very real consequences. It is also the most common sexually transmitted disease.
While the exact statistics for those infected with HPV varies, the numbers are still astronomical! According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in America. It affects the genitals of both males and females. It can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who have HPV do not realize they have the virus, and therefore, unknowingly spread the disease to any sexual partners they may have.
There are between 40 and 70 separate strains of HPV, some of which can cause cervical, anal and other genital cancers.
From 2003-2004, a team with the CDC calculated the total number of women in the United States aged 14-59 who were infected with the HPV virus to be nearly 27%. This means more than 1 in 4, which equals nearly 25 million women in the United States are infected with HPV.
More current statistics state that at least 50% of sexually active men and women contact HPV at some point in their lives.
I am one of those 25 million women. I am a statistic.
I was diagnosed with HPV in my early 20′s, which is the most common age group of those infected. I have had numerous procedures to remove cancerous cells from my cervix. Every procedure was very painful. With every procedure the waiting game started over. Will my next PAP Smear come back bad?
It’s now been nearly 10 years since I’ve had a bad PAP Smear. I am very faithful in going to have my yearly Well-Woman exams, in the hopes of preventing any further issues. However, my choices in my late teens and early 20′s resulted not only in a sexually transmitted disease, but a common side effect of HPV is infertility. After many years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, my husband and I adopted our children. While I love my children with everything in me, and know that God has a purpose and reason in all things, the fact still remains that my actions started a chain reaction. Thankfully, in the end, the chain reaction ended well. However, there were many, many years in between that were very painful- emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.
You very well may be one of these statistics, and never realize it.
While I still stand by the fact that I do not believe it is the government’s place to make medical decisions for citizens, it is also quite understandable how the facts are astounding! While I still disagree with Governor Perry’s executive order, which he later rescinded, I understand his sentiment that cancer is a very real disease. I also understand his statement that he will always err on the side of life.
Governor Perry has since discovered there are many risks with the Gardasil vaccine. There are also many risks with no vaccine. There are enormous risks if we do not teach the concept of choices and consequences.
What are the signs and symptoms of HPV?
While statistics show that most people who contact HPV never show signs of HPV, and in 90% of people the body’s immune system clears the virus naturally within two years. However, sometimes HPS infections are not cleared up and can cause further issues, which include:
- Genital warts- can often be seen, but in some cases they cannot be.
- Rarely, warts in the throat, known as recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP)- can block the airway, causing a hoarse voice or troubled breathing
- Cervical cancer- usually does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced.
- Other, less common but serious cancers, including cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils)
The strain of HPV that causes genital wars is not the same as the strain of HPV that causes cancers. At this time, there is no way of knowing if a person who gets HPV will develop cancer or other health problems.
HPV is passed by genital contact, most often during vaginal and and anal sex. It can also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. It can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners, even if the infected partner has no signs or symptoms of the disease.
A person can have HPV even if it has been years since since they’ve had sexual contact with an infected person. It is possible to contact more than one type of HPV.
On rare occasions, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery. Very rarely, the child can develop juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (JORRP).
How common are HPV and related diseases?
HPV (the virus). Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
Genital warts. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any one time.
Cervical cancer. Each year, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer in the U.S. Almost all of these cancers are HPV-associated.
Other cancers that can be caused by HPV are less common than cervical cancer. Each year in the U.S., there are about:
- 1,500 women who get HPV-associated vulvar cancer
- 500 women who get HPV-associated vaginal cancer
- 400 men who get HPV-associated penile cancer
- 2,700 women and 1,500 men who get HPV-associated anal cancer
- 1,500 women and 5,600 men who get HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils) [Note: Many of these cancers may also be related to tobacco and alcohol use.]
Certain populations are at higher risk for some HPV-related health problems. This includes gay and bisexual men, and people with weak immune systems (including those who have HIV/AIDS).