Human Papillomavirus(HPV)– HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States with over 100 types existing. Over 30 of those types can infect the genital area. Genital HPV is most commonly passed through vaginal and anal sex and affects both men and women.
Not all people with HPV have symptoms of the STD. It can be spread from partner to partner without a person knowing they have been infected. Approximately 50% of sexually active men and women will acquire HPV during their lifetime.
Approximately 90% of genital warts and 70% of cervical cancers are caused by the most common types of genital HPV virus. These are types 6,11,16 & 18. Types 6 and 11 are low risk for cancer and usually cause genital warts on the penis and vaginal opening. High risk HPV 16 and 18 can also infect the genital region but are the types most commonly associated with cervical cancer. These high-risk HPV types cause cellular changes on the cervix. Without treatment the cell changes can cause cancer.
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. Each year more than 4,000 women will die from cervical cancer with another 10,000 diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the United States alone. Recently, a new vaccine was created to help protect against HPV types 6,11,16 and 18. Read on to find out more about the new vaccine.
Gardasil – developed by Merck & Co., was approved by the FDA in June 2006 for prevention of cervical cancers and genital warts associated with the HPV virus. It is recommended for young girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26 and is most affective in women who have never been sexually active. Women with abnormal pap smears may still benefit from the vaccine as most are not infected with all four types of the virus. The vaccine is for prevention of HPV infection only and is not effective as a treatment for external genital warts or abnormal pap smears.
Gardasil is given as an intramuscular injection either in the upper arm or upper thigh in a series of 3 shots over a 6 month period. Each dose of the Gardasil vaccine will cost over $120 or over $360 for all three doses. Straight Medicaid and Badgercare programs will cover the vaccine and it is expected that private insurance companies will do so as well. At this time, the Family Planning Medicaid Waiver does not cover it. The vaccine will also be available to those under 18 years of age under the vaccine for children program at no charge.
There is another HPV vaccine in testing that would help protect against the 2 high risk types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The cost and availability are unknown at this time.
Not all medical facilities have the vaccine available so be sure to find out if you are a candidate for the vaccine and where you can get it.
Neighborhood Health Partners does not carry the vaccine at this time but we are researching availability in our service area.
Visit these websites to learn more about HPV and Gardasil:
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