Wednesday, September 24, 2008

HPV: Does it matter?

Let's have a serious chat.

About V.D.

Nope, its not 7th grade.  Its 28th grade.  Yet I still giggle if someone says herpes. (ha ha)

Herpes.  (snicker)

But something that's not funny is HPV and how most guys have no idea what it is or what it means.  Or that all girls who didn't get married to the first guy they slept with have it.  And that boys have it too, they just don't check for it because it doesn't cause any problems.  Unless you have a cervix.  

HPV causes cervical cancer.  So they say.  I suspect that "they" in this scenario is the drug company that is pushing to get 12 year olds vaccinated against it.  I'll bet moms and dads all over the world are pretty psyched to take their pre-teen in for a series of three vaccinations for a sexually transmitted disease.  Especially since most parents believe that their daughters will wait until they are 53 and married to have sex.

But here's the deal.  Every girl that I know that has been checked for it has it.  Including my mother (ew, gross.  I know.  There is nothing worse than having that conversation with your mother).  Including me.  I must admit, when my ob-gyn told me that I had this thing, I was grossed out, and pissed off, and confused.  I think at that point in my life I had slept with 2, maybe 3, guys.  It might have only been one.  And there were few encounters that didn't involve a condom.  But condoms are useless against HPV, and there are some strains that aren't sexually transmitted.  Point is, you aren't a dirty whore just because you have HPV and you could actually have one of those strains that infects you when you touch leaf mold (disclaimer: I think that leaf mold probably doesn't actually have HPV).  Of 140 different types of HPV, less than 40 are sexually transmitted.  Most cause no symptoms, but some can cause abnormal cells to form on your cervix that your ob-gyn will want to track and do painful procedures on.  Luckily, after several years, my abnormal "Pre-cancerous" cells have finally gone away and she has stopped threatening me with biopsies and scraping and something that involves freezing (then not having sex for six weeks).  

But boys have no idea what this critter does to girls, how its transmitted, why its transmitted or that they have it anyway.  Recently, one of my friends had a little conversation about it with a boy she was dating and he nearly jumped out of the car and dove into the nearest sewer grate to get away (there is probably HPV down there).  In fact, when I had the v.d. conversation with Dr. BB he freaked out about my HPV status.  A guy with a medical degree had to go verify the information that I was telling him, and still remained skeptical about it!  In typical male fashion, both seemed more concerned about whether they could be infected than what it could possibly do to us (cancer!).

So, the question is, when we are having the v.d. chat with a boy that we might sleep with, do we discuss the HPV?  Is it necessary to reveal the fact that we have the same thing that 99.9% of other girls have?  Something that can't really be stopped with condom use?  Something they probably already have?  Something that will never have any symptoms?  Or do we put on our big girl pants and have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation that likely isn't going to change anything?  


kristen said...

PSA hour???

no, i dont mention it.

#1, the strain i tested positive for is the low-risk one. meaning it doesnt cause cancer, so having it is mostly a non-issue. therefore i liken it to telling a guy i had mono when i was 16. technically thats still in my system too...

#2, it can eventually go away. so unless you know that you still have it, it would be like telling someone you had the flu. once. last winter.

#3, its so common that its not even worth it. kind of like, 'hey, i touched a subway handle. it most likely had germs on it. you may catch a cold from that and die of pneumonia... or actually, you may carry the germs and pass it along to some other girl and she may die of pneumonia...'

Ms Behaviour said...

Argh. Crap. :(

Katy said...

There are some strains that cause warts. If you have this strain then, yes, you need to tell them this. But if not, I also vote no on the mentioning it. I have a strain of of the might cause cancer kinds, not one of the wart kinds. Yay! :)

I am totally against the vaccine, even though I'm too old for it (that really puts a damper on a 30 year old). The vaccine doesn't protect against all ba-jillion strains and isn't a guarentee. I still think that mommies and daddies need to have the talk young and be open and honest and tell them that condoms don't necessarily protect you against it.

PS Kristen nice #3!

Elena said...

No, I wouldn't mention it unless you haven't gotten treated. I was exposed to it in college, treated , and it was gone. The only guy I mentioned it to was the guy I was dating at the time (if he had given it to me, he needed to get treated as well so that he wouldn't give it back to me). Regular gyno visits since then have ensured that it hasn't come back.

I second kristen's "flu last winter" analogy...

Anonymous said...

As a guy, I'd say that unless it's going to give me some sort of symptoms (e.g., it's a specific type of strain), it's so commonplace that it's probably not even worth mentioning. It's like saying you may be carrying the flu virus in winter -- so many people are, it's useless information to have.

Medical information should be actionable. If there's no action to take, there's little reason to share it (especially with a casual sexual encounter). For a longer-term relationship, it might be worth having a discussion at some point, but only in terms of perhaps a larger health discussion...