U.S. readers probably know that on Monday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann upbraided Texas governor Rick Perry for requiring girls in his state to have the vaccine during a Tea Party sponsored debate among Republican candidates for the presidential nomination, and then claimed the HPV vaccine causes ‘mental retardation’.
One dramatic response came on Twitter from writer Ayelet Waldman, who wrote that she got HPV from her husband in a monogamous marriage, and had to have cervical lesions removed. She was promptly told to keep that to herself, it was TMI, and that it was probably her fault for being slutty. (For an excellent critical summary of the whole kerfuffle, read Jill’s post at Feministe.)
HPV is easy to spread and hard to detect. From the CDC:
HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners–even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.
HPV is easily spread, but can be prevented and treated. As the Village Voice article asserts, “Perhaps the greatest danger in the battle against HPV is one of PR. People are ashamed (after all, it’s an STD), and women in particular are shamed. No one wants to admit it, no one talks about it, and when people do, it’s in whispers and there’s a lot of misinformation.”
So talk about it, tweet about it, and don’t be ashamed. Fight sex negativity.