Monday, July 23, 2007

The HPV Vaccine Dilemma

The House of Representatives passed a bill banning the use of federal funds for state mandates requiring girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. HPV is also the leading cause of cervical cancer. Many Republicans are against requiring this vaccine, because they believe it will promote teen sex.

Because, you know, when I was 13, the thing that kept me from having sex was the fear of HPV and cervical cancer.

In all reality, I am ambivalent about requiring girls to get the HPV vaccine. On the one hand, from a public health standpoint, it can save many lives. On the other, I'm not completely okay with the government telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

And I'm certainly not okay with politicians, whose main incentive for requiring the vaccine may be that they received contributions from a drug company, telling young girls that they must take this vaccine.

At the same time, I'm not okay with certain religious groups riling up the masses with their "it will promote teen sex and pregnancy" disinformation that only harms teenagers in the end. See, for example, abstinence-only education. As someone working in the public health field, I can attest to the accepted wisdom among the front-line workers that such "education" does not work.

Who is comfortable with teenagers having sex, getting pregnant, and getting STDs? I'm not. But some of us, however, choose to live in the real world and accept that kids are going to have sex no matter how much you preach to them and no matter how much you don't want them to. And therefore, teenagers should have access to accurate health information instead of religious and/or moral propaganda.

I see too many underfunded community-health centers now getting stuck cleaning up the messes that the morally "right" helped create.

So, I guess my point is this:

No, I don't want women to get cervical cancer. But I also don't want our fundamentalist Christian government to get further into the business of telling women and girls what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

No comments: