Protect yourself: Get HPV vaccine

Condoms and abstaining from sex are regarded as effective ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, so people take these precautions to stay healthy. So why wouldn’t college women get a vaccine to arm themselves against the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease?About 20 million Americans are infected with human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that about 50 percent of sexually active people get in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there is no cure, there is an effective method to prevent against deadly types of the disease.

The vaccine, called Gardisil, is effective against 70 percent of HPV types that cause cervical cancer, said Suzy Lockwood, assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

“Vaccination plus regular pap tests provide the best protection against developing cervical cancer,” Lockwood said.

The vaccine is only approved for females as of now, she said, but she believes males should also receive the vaccine once studies are done because men can pass the disease on without knowing it.

Lockwood said Gardisil is most effective for women who are not sexually active but even sexually active women up to age 26 can receive the vaccine after talking with their doctors about possible previous HPV exposure, she said.

The vaccine comes at a steep price – a series of three shots over six months costs $360. However, since almost all women are exposed to HPV at some point, Lockwood said, $360 is a good investment in a woman’s health.

Since the vaccine is fairly new, not all health providers have the vaccine. The Health Center currently does not have the vaccine, but will be receiving it in the future, said Laura Crawley, assistant dean of campus life for health promotion.

Contact the Health Center or your local physician for more information about receiving the vaccine.

Invest in your – and others’ – health.

Managing editor Adrienne Lang for the editorial board.