Monday, October 29, 2007

HPV Vaccination

Concerns have been raised about the introduction of vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). One of the most vocally raised concerns may well be from people who argue that a vaccination against a sexually transmitted virus will encourage promiscuous behaviour.

I first heard about HPV in a talk by Josh McDowell, when I was around 30, and in science and social terms, I would consider myself pretty well-informed. He's still making the same points about it:
Of all women in American universities who have had sex even just one time, 63 percent of them are infected with HPV (human papillomavirus), the No. 1 sexually transmitted disease in the world.
If nobody has heard of it (and it is only now really starting to be widely talked about, because of the possibility of a national vaccination campaign), then awareness of it isn't affecting their behaviour. So I can't see that vaccinating against it will encourage greater promiscuity - the fact that it wasn't vaccinated against wasn't affecting anybody's behaviour in the first place.

However, the vaccination is at best 70% effective, and it isn't even known if what effectiveness it has continues beyond 5 years. And what I really want to know is: is HPV always a precursor to cervical cancer? And is HPV only transmitted sexually? If that were the case, then the pattern of both men and women having only one sexual partner for life would also eliminate the risk of cervical cancer, wouldn't it?