April doesn’t just mark the beginning of allergy season. In fact, April also marks STD Awareness Month in the United States, an annual observance designed to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and the importance of testing and prevention for long-term health. There is perhaps no better time to begin discussions of developments in sexual wellness and care, especially concerning HPV-one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections out there. To give you some sense of the urgency surrounding the relative ubiquity of HPV, I want to give you a quantitative view of the problem: between 50 and 70 percent of sexually active adults will contract some strain of the HPV virus in their lifetime.
In light of these statistics, last year Merck sought FDA approval to market and administer the HPV vaccine Gardasil to boys and men, ages 9 to 26. The FDA approved the use of the vaccine, and now questions have begun to arise as to whether boys and men should indeed receive the vaccine on a large scale. Moreover, according to the CDC’s Web site, there is currently no test to screen for HPV in males, so preventive measures become even more valuable-for a variety of reasons.
While women can be tested for HPV infections as part of a routine screening for cervical cancer, men face a greater challenge detecting and receiving pre-malignant treatment for the disease. HPV undeniably causes a high incidence of cervical cancer if left untreated-which has been well-documented by both health professionals and the media-but it can also spur the growth of invasive forms of anal and penile cancers, which are often deadly if not treated early. Lower incidence of undetectable HPV infection in males curtailed by vaccination therefore translates into a lower transmission rate to sexual partners, as well as a lower incidence of aggressive cancers in males later in life. (more…)