Yesterday, when I really should of been relaxing and recovering from having yet another chunk of my body chopped off, I tried to educate.
I challenged and explained all sorts of misconceptions about HPV on various social media platforms following the fall out of yesterday’s catastrophic error of giving airtime to someone so clueless.
So here, in my little speck of the Internet I’ll try and explain all I know about HPV.
HPV is sexually transmitted. And there lies the main problem. No one wants to ever admit that they have an STI. But what makes HPV hugely different from other STI’s is its commonality. Figures vary but it is estimated between 70-80% of people will have it at some pony in their life. They are big numbers. You are more likely to have had HPV than to of not.
There are over 100 strains, of which around 20 have been found to be capable of causing cancer. The virus switches off the cells inbuilt brake mechanism which normally kicks in to kill cells that shouldn’t be there. So effectively the virus doesn’t cause cancer it cuts the brakes of the bodies own natural response to kill rogue cells.
Of the 70-80% of humans that get the virus, the vast majority clear it from their system with no ongoing issues what so ever. They maybe reinfected many times over, but continue to clear it with no ill effects.
Unfortunately a tiny proportion of the 80% of the population that will of had HPV cannot clear the virus. This then goes on to cause cell abnormalities (300,000 women have abnormal smears annually) which in some cases turn into cancer.(3000 cervical cancer cases annually)
99.7% of cervical cancer is caused by HPV. It causes other cancers too, mainly of the genitals/anus but also of throat/head/neck.
It is spread by skin to skin contact. Condom use will not protect you fully.
The vaccine covers the most common cancer causing strains of HPV but not all. So there have been cases of women who have had the vaccine that still go on to get cancer. What is unknown is the number of women who have had the vaccine who have been saved from getting cancer.
No one likes to think of their 12 year old daughter having sex. No one likes to think of their 12 year old contracting a STI. This adds to the problem of parents think sonehow that the vaccine promotes promiscuity or early sexual experimentation.
The reason it is done at 12 is so girls can hopefully be caught before any sexual behaviour has started. HPV can be spread without full penetrative sex remember.
I hope anyone reading this has learnt something. I am not medically trained but I probably know a damn sight more than Ms Messenger.