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From Feminine Genius: Condom and Cervical Cancer

Here, Abigail Tardiff points us to a Planned Parenthood article downplaying the risks of the human papilloma virus.

HPV the human papilloma virus is the most widespread sexually transmitted infection in the world. In the United States alone, an estimated 20 million people have genital HPV, and more than five million people contract it each year. Right-wing ideologues have used these numbers to make HPV seem like the country's next sexual health epidemic, and have twisted facts about the spread of HPV to discredit condom use. What they won't admit is that most HPV infections are completely harmless, and that the numbers reveal just one thing how common, and very normal, it is to have HPV.

Got that? Your STD is completely normal. So wait a second, I've never had an STD in my life. Am I a freak?

What a clear example of Satan's goal of calling evil good.

Anyway, the article goes on to persuade us how harmless and normal genital warts are. I'm sure the next article will tell us it's actually cool to have genital warts.

Next the article admits that some forms of HPV have been shown to be associated with cervical cancer and that condoms don't fully protect against PV because it is trasmitted by skin to skin conatct. Their two-fold solution?

But today, only one in 1,000 women who contract cancer-related HPV will develop full-blown cervical cancer. This is because many women know how to prevent cervical cancer with proper health care including annual Pap tests and regular use of condoms.

That's right, the way to avoid getting cancer that condoms can't fully protect you against is to:

  1. not get cancer
  2. use condoms

Does any anti-lung cancer literature focus on detection and treatment without mentioning quitting smoking as prevention? Do we tell over-eaters to blow chunks to prevent heart attacks without suggesting they not eat so much? Of course not! And who would take seriously anybody who did? We intuitively know that the far better answer is to decrease or cut out altogether the behavior that causes the consequences. But to Planned Parenthood, it is unthinkable to propose that the answer to preventing the natural results of casual sex is to decrease or cut out the detrimental behavior. In their minds, irresponsible sexual behavior can be totally dissociated from the natural consequence of contracting disease.

As Tardiff points out, over 5,000,000 women a year contract HPV. Even though not every strain causes cervical cancer, that's still an enormous scale, even at the rate of just one in a thousand developing cancer. In addition, those rates are rising.

Finally, she adds this nugget:

What I do not see on this Planned Parenthood page is a reminder that both precancerous conditions of the cervix and their treatment, which can destroy the cervix's ability to produce the mucus necessary for sperm mobility, can lead to infertility.

Planned Parenthood says you should not be afraid of contracting HPV because there's only a 0.1% chance it will give you cancer. The fact that there is a far greater chance that you will never be able to have children because of the virus does not even enter into their moral framework.

This is even more insidious in light of the article blogged earlier which points out that having babies provides stropng protections against many other forms of cancer.

These people want to teach your children the birds and the bees.

Coincidentally, Alicia blogs an HPV fact sheet.

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As a medical professional, I feel as though you are still skewing the facts here. Let us take the information as is presented.

-"Got that? Your STD is completely normal. So wait a second, I've never had an STD in my life. Am I a freak?"

Certainly not. They are just pointing out that since it is so common, and often innocuous as well as self-limiting, many people have it. I think that she was trying to say that the distribution among the population is fairly normal. I doubt that she was trying to suggest that people that don't have HPV are abnormal (or "freaks" as you suggest). Just as chicken pox and the flu are fairly common, we consider that normal, but people that have never had either aren't freaks. I have never had the flu, and have never considered myself a freak for it. (and isn't freak a pretty nasty word anyway? There is so much variety in human form and behavior of our bodies how would you go about determining normal?)

-"What a clear example of Satan's goal of calling evil good."

Er....I am not sure what "Satan" has to do with this, but the fact of the matter is that this is a common virus, just like the cold, mononucleosis, the flu, etc.. ONE of the ways that this one is transmitted is via sexaul contact. I don't see how calling it widely distributed over the population (i.e. normal) is calling "evil" "good". It is simply a fact. It is spread through skin to skin contact. Shaking hands, hugs, cheek kissing, wrestling, etc. all involve skin to skin contact that is completely benign and devoid of lewd intent. You can get the virus that way too. Sexual contact is just ONE way. Let's not loose focus here.

Saying that the infection is generally harmless is just that. Of 5 million cases, saying that 1 in 1000 may (may, mind you not will) develop into cervical cancer is pretty slim. You consider driving a generally safe way to get around, but you are FAR more likely to die in a car accident. Or to have a chunk of ice fall from a plane flying overhead and crash through your ceiling. What is the difference?

The solutions are regular check-ups and condom use. Yes. The solution is not as you suggest "don't get cancer." There are NUMEROUS carcinogens in everyday life that you are exposed to, (the sun itself being the most common one) and you avoid dying of cancer by regular visits to your doctor. How is this any different? And condom use can decrease the chance you are getting exposed to HPV. No, it doesn't offer 100% protection, but you still wear a seat-belt although it doesn't guarantee that you will walk away from a car crash.

Also, she doesn't mention this, but if you have HPV and you are in a committed, monogamous relationship, it is possible that you can repeatedly re-infect each other, so condom use is a good preventative measure to take.

Moreover, she doesn't spend time on abstinence as a solution because it is obvious (not to mention, as I already stated, sex is only ONE way to get HPV). If I were to write a review of ways to avoid drowning in a riptide, I wouldn't mention avoiding the beach or not swimming either. That is pretty obvious to anyone. This article is designed to make people aware of the potential risks out there.

And as far as the infertility comment, yes you may decrease the cervix's role in allowing sperm to pass into the uterus for fertilization by treating this infection, but this dosen't mean that you will never have children. There are a plethora of fertility drugs and an entire branch of medical research devoted to nothing but helping people have children. I STRONGLY doubt, a decrease in the amount of cervical mucous will make you barren. People with far worse conditions and inhosbitable genital tracts have children. I am sure this is a minor obstacle that modern medicine can easily circumvent.


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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on June 2, 2005 8:16 AM.

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