HPV and the Gardasil vaccine

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Prevention is the single most important thing we can do for our health. The human papilloma virus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Approximately 75 percent of men and women will become infected with HPV in their lifetime, most often during their first two to three years of sexual contact. There are several types of HPV that can cause cervical warts or cervical cancer, so awareness and prevention are critical.

Both men and women can be infected, so carriers can transmit it to their partners. The problem is that condoms are only partially effective in preventing the spread of the virus, and symptoms are not usually visible.

While women are screened regularly for HPV through pap smears, there is no effective screening test for men, so most do not realize they are infected and putting their partners at risk.

The Gardasil vaccine has proven effective against the four most common strains of HPV, reducing the risk of women developing cervical cancer by 75 percent, and cervical warts by 90 percent.

The best time to vaccinate is age 11-12 in boys and girls, but vaccinations can be effective for people aged 9-26. The goal is to vaccinate before young people become sexually active.

For those who are already sexually active, benefits from the vaccine can still be realized as the patients may not have contracted the HPV variant that causes cancer.

For worried parents, the Gardasil vaccine is not carte blanche for young people to become sexually active. It’s meant to prevent future consequences from sexual intercourse across their lifetimes.

If you have children, I urge you to consider their long-term health by asking your medical provider about the Gardasil vaccine.