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!