Humanpapillomavirus, or HPV, is a sexually-transmitted disease that most sexually-active people will contract during their lifetimes. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that there are 14 million new infections of HPV every year. For the majority of people who contract HPV, the disease doesn’t cause any symptoms or problems. However, for some, HPV manifests itself as genital warts.
Professor zur Hausen is a German virologist who won the Nobel prize for discovering the link between HPV and cervical cancer. If a woman gets cervical cancer, it was almost certainly caused by HPV. This discovery led to worldwide efforts to vaccinate girls against HPV before they became sexually active.
Now, Professor zur Hausen is urging that the same efforts be applied to vaccinate boys against HPV before they become sexually active. The virologist claims that HPV also causes anal cancer, penile cancer and throat cancer in men. His goal, however, is to eradicate the disease entirely by globally vaccinating all boys and girls against the disease, the method used to extinguish other diseases such as polio. Australia, Austria, Israel and parts of Canada currently have a boys’ vaccination program in place, but the United Kingdom, the United States and most other countries do not. In the United States, some states, such as Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws requiring an HPV vaccination for boys and girls to attend public or private school by the seventh grade.
HPV affects the skin and the membranes that serve as our body lining, such as the anus, cervix, mouth and throat. There are more than 100 different types of HPV that are transmitted through sexual contact. About 40 of the HPV types affect the genital area. In some people, HPV causes warts to form on the lining. It can also cause changes to the cells of the linings that eventually develop into cancer.
Some experts fear that if we don’t vaccinate boys and girls against HPV, we will experience a sharp increase in cervical cancer and the male cancers caused by HPV. One of the reasons for this is that heterosexual couples are more often engaging in oral and anal sex than in the past, and these experts fear there is a time bomb of cancers caused by HPV that have yet to manifest themselves in patients.
There have been some reports of girls having bad reactions to the vaccine, and some allegations that the vaccine causes chronic fatigued syndrome. The World Health Organization reaffirmed the safety of the vaccine and claims that there is no evidence that supports the allegations of autoimmune diseases, such as CFS. The WHO says that about one in 10,000 girls who receive the vaccine might experience tightness of the chest and difficulty breathing that lasts for a couple of hours. About one in a million girls vaccinated might experience an allergic reaction called an anaphylactic reaction. The health care professionals who administer HPV vaccines are fully trained to recognize and treat these rare cases of severe reactions to the HPV vaccine.