This year, the River Campus seems to be covered with information encouraging female students to get Gardasil, the three-step vaccine that protects females against Human papillomavirus Types 6, 11, 16 and 18. The bookstore is giving out bags that promote the “You Could Become 1 Less Life Affected by Cervical Cancer” campaign. Brochures handed out by University Health Services promote the “Tell Someone” campaign. Residential Life gave RAs a chance to attend an informational meeting about the vaccine, in order to encourage their halls to get vaccinated. Several sororities, the Students’ Association, Women’s Caucus, VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood and Colleges Against Cancer have tabled, encouraging female students to get the vaccine and to tell their friends to do the same.

In a big effort to get more women vaccinated, UHS held an HPV Vaccine Clinic on Oct. 4. This was a confidential walk-in clinic where students could get the first, second or third booster of the vaccine. The cost of the vaccine without insurance is $140 per shot, but UHS will first attempt to bill the student’s insurance company. If a student’s insurance does not cover the vaccine, such as the school insurance, UHS will charge next semester’s tuition bill.

Despite all of these efforts and the constant buzz about HPV, a large majority of students still do not know about Gardasil, how to get the vaccine, what the Human papillomavirus even is and how important vaccination is.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that has been spread to at least 20 million Americans, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are approximately 6.2 million new cases of HPV each year in the United States. HPV can be spread through any form of genital contact, not just intercourse. There are over 30 different strains of HPV, many of which can go unnoticed and/or can be healed by the body without medical intervention. HPV affects both men and women. A person can show no signs of having HPV and still be contagious.

Some strains of HPV can lead to genital warts. In addition to being painful and irritating, genital warts can increase a person’s chances of being infected by HIV. Other strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer in women.

Gardasil protects against Types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Types 6 and 11 cause about 90 percent of genital warts cases. Types 16 and 18 cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Gardasil has only been approved for girls and women ages nine to 26, and it is currently the only shot available that prevents against HPV and a form of cancer.

Promotion of the HPV vaccine is very important for students to know that it is available right here on campus and how to get vaccinated.

In order for the word to continue to spread, even more groups need to get involved in promoting the vaccine. Encouraging women to get Gardasil is not just a “woman’s issue,” it is a chance to promote sexual health and potentially save lives.

The HPV vaccine is a preventive measure. Since women can only receive the vaccine until the age of 26, even women who are not sexually active are encouraged to get the vaccine now in order to avoid transmission later in life.

The vaccine has been a controversial issue in the media, in government and even at our own school. Some people feel that by vaccinating against an STI, teens will be encouraged to have sex earlier, more often and/or without protection. Although these are all legitimate concerns, there are countless preventative measures that we take every day that could encourage reckless behavior. For example, wearing a seatbelt could make someone think they are invincible in a car, or taking a multivitamin could make someone think they do not have to eat healthy.

The truth is that the HPV vaccine is a move in the right direction and a chance at saving countless lives. Groups need to work together to encourage women to get vaccinated.

In the meantime, I hope that we continue to see the “Tell Someone” and “1 Less” signs around campus and that those pieces of advice are followed by our students.

Nigro is a member of the class of 2009.

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