Now that my grades are done (woo-hoo!) I can blog about the conference on “Cancer Vaccine for Girls” that I presented at last week. My paper went really well — I was the resident expert on history of adolescent girls and gynecology. My paper pointed out that pap smears and routine gynecological exams for girls and young women were at one time controversial because of worries that this would rupture the hymen and cause psychological trauma. Other papers looked at the history and current issues regarding vaccination in the United States (apparently Colorado has the lowest vaccination rates in the country, which has led to epidemics of pertussis and measles, especially among home-schooled kids. ) The picture was dramatically different in Africa, where the confluence of HPV and HIV has led to astronomically levels of cervical cancer. The one clinician, a gynecologist from Botswana, said they would welcome the vaccine as it would alleviate a major public health crisis. In Niger, however, the predominantly Muslim population distrusts vaccination, seeing it as part of a longer pattern of abuse and genocidal behavior by colonial powers.
There were also very interesting presentations on gay men’s health, and implications for straight men’s health as well. Apparently HPV causes anal cancer, as well as oral cancers which until now have been attributed to “male” behaviors like smoking and beer drinking. There also appears to be a link between HPV and prostate cancer. So, vaccines and smears for men too?
The conference had presenters from a variety of disciplines, including filmmaker Giovanna Chesler, who showed this very interesting satire on the notorious Gardasil commercials:
This video is from her website Tune in HPV which grew out of her experience with HPV related disease (she spent six weeks bedridden after surgery for cervical displasia). So, ladies, remember to get your annual pap smear (this means you too Historiann!)
P.S. speaking of vaccines, just noticed a piece over at Disability Studies, Temple University about Katherine Seidel, who blogs about autism, and who has been subpoenaed by the plaintif’s attorney in an anti-vaccine lawsuit. Be careful what you say out there, the lawyers will be after you next!
Did it already last month! I decided to cowgirl up and have a dental checkup and a lady parts checkup all on the same day. (I highly recommend this approach for anyone else who tends to delay these things–get it all over at once. I was rewarded for my industry by being able to celebrate good news!
Interesting (and highly disturbing) news about Colorado. I wonder if it’s because we’ve got a concentration of the kind of people who are anti-vaxers here: on the one hand, evangelical home schoolers who believe the right-wing anti-vax woo, and on the other, affluent liberals with too much time on their hands & so they (especially the “professional mom” types) get seduced by the left-wing anti-vax woo. Get this: the town I work in, one of the two big university towns in the state, had a ballot measure a few years ago to eliminate fluoride in the water! (It’s the same basic propaganda the John Birchers used to promulgate, only updated with a few crunchy granola twists so as to appeal to the liberal crowd’s suspicion of allopathic medicine.) Fortunately it failed miserably, but that really shocked the heck out of me. I guess people must really miss life without polio, smallpox, and disfiguring dental problems!
p.s. dig the Le Tigre t-shirt that Giovanna is wearing!
You hit it right on the head, Historiann. It’s combination of religious arguments and “natural health” ideology that drives the anti-vaccination movement. Regarding fluoride — dentists have seen a sharp increase in pediatric dental caries because parents give children bottled water, and allow them to suck on juice boxes all day thereby providing a constant feast for cavity-causing bacteria.