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Lack of Political Will Leaves HPV Still Relatively Unknown: An Editorial

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I recently received a CDC Update which specifically referred to the HPV vaccine and the pathetically low increase in the completion of the three-shot series of only 5.2 percent from 2009 to 2010.

It was the comments of Dr. Anne Schuchat, Asst Secretary General of the CDC that stopped me dead in my tracks. She stated that anyone needing financial help with the vaccine should discuss the VFC (Vaccines for Children Program) with their doctors.

What? Since most people don’t receive CDC Updates, I wondered how she expected people to even know about the VFC Program let alone speak to their doctors about it.

I wrote to the CDC, explaining my long history, my Nobel Laureate (for discovering HPV causes cervical cancer) -endorsed book and my desire to assist in getting those figures up.

I received a very nice response providing a few groups to call, stating that they always had groups calling for speakers and how she was sure they would want to have me as a speaker, in addition to stating that she and her colleagues would love to have a copy (signed if possible) of my book for the CDC Library and Educational Center.

Great, I thought. At least things seemed positive, however there were other comments within the email that made me question a number of things -- like where were all these allocated funds going?

I wondered why Dr. Schuchat believed she was the best spokesperson for HPV when even her own words minimized HPV by limiting its connection only to cervical cancer, instead of educating people on the now six (and counting) cancers attributed to this virus.

I informed them that I had never seen any of the campaign literature claimed to have been produced for either the “teen” program or the one called “Inside Information” intended to educate women on gynecological cancers. What an ironic campaign title since this seems to be exactly how this information has been kept, as inside information.

I also asked why, after years of their HPV website informing the public that 80 percent of adults would have an HPV infection at some time in their lives, did it suddenly (earlier this year) drop dramatically to 50 percent?

That is a huge statistical drop -- 30 percent? It was interesting that this change came on the heels of news articles reporting that newly-released research showed that 50 percent of all U.S. men likely had HPV.

That figure came from the work of Dr. Anna Giuliano of the University of Southern Florida/Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa Florida. But this didn’t include women who are notoriously affected by HPV far more than males.

This obviously would need to be added to the figures of males which was higher than previously thought. That would mean the 80 percent number if anything would likely be higher, not lower.

I’m convinced that had I been willing to capitulate or perform some “act of contrition” I wouldn’t have received the next email, the only intervening event being my reply to that initial CDC response.

Within 24 hours I got another email from this woman’s supervisor. She failed to address any of the questions which I had asked -- not one. She spoke about how dedicated and committed to this issue the CDC representatives and CDC itself were.

Most of it was, as she labeled it herself, “government speak”. She ultimately informed me that she hoped that other organizations would be able to assist me in the future. It didn’t really shock me but it was significantly disappointing to be so easily blown off.

When Harald zur Hausen, MD, first informed the medical community of his theory that HPV caused cervical cancer he was nearly booed off the stage. He was basically ostracized by the medical community and even after he proved his theory correct, it was still met with skepticism while his offer to work on a vaccine was dismissed.

This resulted in a near decades delay in getting the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, to the public.

There are always those who can be very dedicated and committed but who are simply wrong-minded when it comes to an issue, as the CDC is in this case.

All the biostatistical data which they claim to utilize in making decisions regarding their campaigns isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on when it can’t achieve results and leaves the CDC stating that “if drastic changes aren’t made an entire generation of women will be left exposed to this virus ...”

I responded to this mail and let them know that HIV/AIDS was discovered in the same year as HPV yet the government, in that situation, obviously had the political will to educate the public. Today the majority of people have at least heard of HIV/AIDS which just goes to show what can be done if done correctly.

As a result of their campaign’s miserable performance, they have also handed out potential death sentences to those who are now too old to obtain the vaccine all because they still haven’t heard about it. Any loss of life is a tragedy, and any loss of life under these circumstances is simply unjustifiable.


"CDC Media Relations - Press Release: August 25, 2011." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0825_hpv_vaccine.html?source=govdelivery

"CDC - Human Papillomavirus (HPV)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2011.

" Half of U.S. Men Infected With HPV, Study Reveals." CancerCompass - Empowering cancer patients to make informed decisions. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2011.

Reviewed October 5, 2011
by Michele Blackberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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