The Dixie State University Rural Health Scholar Club brought awareness to the most common sexually transmitted disease to an almost empty Dunford Auditorium in the Browning Learning Resource Center Nov. 21.
DSU’s RHS invited two guest speakers to speak about human papilloma virus and the importance of the HPV vaccination before the screening of the documentary “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic.” The film featured five women as they physically and emotionally battled cancer caused by HPV and the stereotypes that came along with it.
According to an article titled “Texas State study highlights student’ ignorance regarding HPV,” which found less than 40 percent of college students knew HPV was the most common STD and only 15 percent knew condoms don’t fully protect against the virus.
“[Sex education] is a huge gaping hole in the [U.S.]” said Christine Chew, an assistant psychology professor at DSU.
Chew said sex ed in Utah is challenging because Utah is an “abstinence state,” which means teachers emphasize abstinence before birth control. She also said the conservative and religious culture in Utah has put a taboo on the topic and makes students feel shameful to even talk about sex.
Chew has taught the human sexuality class at DSU before and has seen the knowledge gap first hand.
“By far, the majority of students in that course don’t know a lot,” Chew said.
According to the article from University of Texas in Austin NPR station “Study finds college students misinformed on HPV risks,” from 75 percent of Americans will contract HPV in their lifetime and 75 percent of new HPV infections happen among people aged 15 to 24.
Guest speaker Deanna Kepka, an assistant nursing professor at the University of Utah, said every 20 minutes, 30,000 people are diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV. There are over 100 types of HPV and 40 of those types can lead to cancer.
The HPV vaccine is not only an STD vaccine, it is also a cancer prevention vaccine and needs to be rebranded as such, Kepka said.
“We should not have a stigma around HPV because [most of us will be] infected with HPV,” Kepka said.
She said the vaccination is for males and females. Fifty nine percent of new HPV-related cancer in women will be cervical cancer and 77 percent of new HPV-related cancer in males will be oropharyngeal cancer, which is cancer found in your throat region from oral sex.
“If you vaccinated only boys [instead of] only girls, then the risk of cervical cancers would be a lower risk,” said Harald Zur Hausen, a German virologist and discoverer of the link between HPV and cervical cancer, in the film.
Women can be checked regularly for HPV with their pap smear, but there is no specific test to detect it in men according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV is as common in men as it is in women, but men are less likely to develop serious health problems and so it is less likely to be detected and treated in men.
For more information on HPV and prevention and other STD’s, students can visit CDC’s website.