HPV affects many; vaccine available on-campus

Nora G. Hertel

Human papilloma virus infections are of the most common and dangerous STDs. Recent projections from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half of all sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime.
Currently, there are up to 100 different types of HPV in circulation. These HPV types vary in severity and consequences, as some of them lead to genital warts and others to cervical cancer in women.
Some types carry no detriment; however, those people infected with the viruses without symptoms may inadvertently spread various infections.
Infections resulting in genital warts can be treated with various topical ointments or minor surgical procedures. The process to remove genital warts is not much different than the processes necessary to remove other types of warts.
Some strains of the virus cause lesions that may eventually lead to cervical cancer. The viruses may cause warts or lesions that eventually become malignant. Every year roughly 10,000 women develop cervical cancer and up to 4,000 die from it.
Many of the victims of this cancer are considerably young and rendered sterile by its effects. Four types of the virus are considered responsible for cervical cancer.
While there is no special treatment for the cancer or the virus itself, a vaccine has been created to protect against the most dangerous strands of HPV.
The HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, was developed to prevent the spread of the cancer causing viruses, and is targeted at girls ages 11-12.
The idea is to build up antibodies within young women’s immune systems before they are sexually active and at prime risk for exposure to the viruses.
Girls as young as nine may receive the vaccine, and it’s also proven effective for older women and men who may wish to avoid the possibility of transmitting the cancer-causing strands.
Gardasil is issued in a series of three shots over a span of six months. Because the vaccine is relatively new, recipients may require boosters in the future to maintain levels of antibodies, or future doses may be less vigorous.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not yet subsidize this relatively new preventative.
People who are already sexually active can still benefit from this vaccine, as they have most likely not encountered all types of the virus. Lawrence students have access to the vaccine at the Health Center.
Because most insurance companies don’t cover the vaccine, and billing insurance is a service not rendered at the campus clinic, students that receive the vaccine will be billed through their student account.
Gardasil is available on campus for $130 per shot, which is reasonable in comparison to prices at other offices and clinics.
As a new vaccine, Gardasil is not yet offered at all Planned Parenthood clinics. It may seem that the vaccine is inconvenient in terms of pricing and availability, but it is highly recommended by Carol Saunders, RN of the Health Center. “I think it’s a good idea. It’s a lot cheaper than cancer.”
Information for this article was gathered from the Mayo Clinic website, Gardasil product information, and Carol Saunders, RN