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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    HPV Awareness

    In connection with Black History Month and Black Womyn’s Weekend, the Wo/Men’s ‘ Gender Resource Center co-sponsored a Human Pappilomavirus event at the Student Activities Center on Feb. 12. The program raised awareness about the disease and provided information about Gardasil, the Food and Drug Administration-released vaccine approved for preventing cervical cancer.

    The event, which was attended by about 50 men and women, helped students identify risky behaviors associated with contracting HP, and educated them about symptoms and treatment options for the sexually transmitted infection, which the Center for Disease Prevention reports at least 50% of sexually active people will get at some point in their lives.

    HPV is a common virus that affects both men and women who have any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact. Typically harmless, most types of HPV have no symptoms and go away on their own. However, there are about 30 types of HPV that affect the genital area, including some that can cause cervical cancer or abnormal cells that can turn into cancer. Others are low risk and can cause genital warts and changes in the cervix that are abnormal, but benign, according to the CDC.

    Megan Newhouse-Bailey, 22, a student assistant at the Student Health Center who spoke at the event, said she was there to educate students about genital warts and cellular changes that can lead to cervical cancer. She said early detection is important in controlling HPV, since men and women can pass it to their partners without realizing it. “In many cases, warts are invisible to the naked eye,” she said. Newshouse-Bailey told attendants that HPV is detected through Pap smears and the HPV test, which detects the DNA of HPV. There is no cure for HPV, but treatment options include creams, cyro-freezing, and lasers.

    Prevention was the theme of the night, with Bailey explaining different barrier methods that can help prevent HPV, like male and female condoms, dental dams, and latex gloves. Safer sex is important, especially since, Newhouse-Bailey said, “the American Cancer Society estimates about 10,520 women will develop invasive cervical cancer each year.”

    Activities like “HPV Awareness Jeopardy” tested students’ knowledge on facts, prevention, treatment, and symptoms/effects of HPV, asking them to name things like the route of transmission for HPV. Attendants were then assembled into large groups to brainstorm safer sex behaviors. Junior Sade Johnson, 20, an Africana Studies major, said of the night’s activities, “We need to stay aware about HPV, because it’s becoming a bigger epidemic.”

    The event’s message had a sobering effect on many students. Lateefah Hingo, 22, a Social Work major, said, “It’s devastating to find out all these different things. It’s sad, because we’re dying at earlier ages.” Muldy Fletcher, 23, said he commended Black Womyn’s Weekend and the Wo/Men’s ‘ Gender Resource Center for putting on the program. “Unfortunately, I don’t think many people are going to talk about HPV until millions of women die [from cervical cancer],” he said.

    Midway through the event, the focus turned to Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend to young women as a way to prevent cervical cancer, according to the CDC. Amanda Saint-Vil, Vice-President of Black Womyn’s Weekend, explained what the vaccine is, what types of HPV it protects against, and how much it costs. Saint-Vil, who suggests every woman get the vaccine, said the Student Health Center is offering the vaccine to female students.

    Kathleen Flynn-Bisson, MA, CHES, a Health Educator at the Student Health Center, said that students 18 years or older – younger requires parental consent – may visit the Student Health Center to set up a free appointment with a Student Health Services Care Provider to begin the vaccination process. Students are given the vaccine, which protects against 4 major types of HPV, in a 3-dose series, with the second dose spaced 2 months after dose 1, and the third dose spaced 6 months after dose 1. Each dose costs $135 and can be covered under insurance. The CDC recommends that anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast or to any other component of the HPV vaccine to not get the vaccine.

    Flynn-Bisson, who has been working at the Student Health Center since 1994, touted the arrival of the vaccine on campus. “Any kind of information that gets people to think about healthy choices is a good thing,” she said. “The fact that people are talking and thinking about [the vaccine] is awesome.”

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