When we hear about HPV – the more common term for the human papillomavirus, the conversation usually focuses on young women and the risk of cervical cancer.
In reality, HPV is a much larger health issue for women and men. Some even go so far as to say it is a crisis. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, with 79 million Americans infected with HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Approximately 14 million new cases develop each year. That means a majority of sexually active people will acquire HPV at some point in their lives. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls at ages 12 and 13 so they can develop an immune response to the virus before becoming sexually active.
While HPV infections may disappear on their own within a couple years, having the virus increases the risk of developing cervical, penile and anal cancers.
“We vaccinate so that children have the best protection possible long before they are exposed to an infection, as is the case with measles and the other recommended childhood vaccines,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada.
HPV vaccination rates in Nevada lag behind the national average. For teen girls in Nevada, 27 percent are getting the full series of shots compared to 33 percent nationally. For teen boys, only 7 percent in Nevada are vaccinated against HPV, compared to 14 percent nationally. Parker described the HPV vaccine as “cancer prevention.”
And HPV is just not affecting younger people in Nevada. Robert Mock, 56, spent almost thirty in the health care business, before he was diagnosed with throat and thyroid cancer in 2012.
But it wasn’t until his cancer diagnosis that he knew how devastating the HPV virus can be. Mock is healthy today. He says prevention is easy – it’s a safe HPV vaccine.
“Anyone who has battled cancer or experienced it through a loved one knows how challenging it is both mentally, physically and emotionally,” Mock said. “You can prevent HPV-related cancers in your children by vaccinating them against this horrible disease.”
Mock said parents purchase insurance for their homes and health, “why not consider an insurance against HPV by vaccinating our children?”
Immunize Nevada, in partnership with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health and Nevada Cancer Coalition, has launched HPV Free NV, a statewide campaign to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine.
Heidi Parker, executive director, Immunize Nevada; Robert Mock, HPV-associated cancer survivor
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