HPV vaccine now on hand

Elizabeth Cook

Some students on campus could be carrying a sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer and not even know it.

In August, a vaccine for the sexually transmitted infection human papilloma virus was approved and the three-shot vaccine is available this semester at Boynton Health Service.

The shots are not covered by Student Services Fees, but most other insurance companies are paying for it, said Dave Golden, Boynton public health and marketing director.

At Boynton, a handful of students already have received the vaccination, Golden said.

“There’s been a lot of inquiries,” he said. “As soon as it was made available we started recommending it.”

First-year theater student Chelsey Smith said she thinks Boynton should cover at least half of the cost for the vaccine because it could quickly spread among students.

“Part of it should be covered since we are such a big campus,” she said.

But, since it’s a “personal choice” to have sex, it shouldn’t be Boynton’s responsibility to pay for all of it, she said.

Boynton Medical Director Marilyn Joseph said there are 100 types of the virus, but it’s the “high-risk strains” that cause genital warts and cervical cancer, Joseph said.

The vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and costs $435 for students not covered by insurance, Golden said.

According to a Boynton Health Service survey of 6,000 students in 2004, 2.9 percent of University students aged 18 to 24 have genital warts. About 4.4 percent of the entire population of students reported the symptom.

Joseph said the virus is spread through sexual contact when there is genital-to-genital touching.

Condoms are a good way to protect against the virus, but they are not a guaranteed protection, she said.

A person can have the virus without knowing it, Joseph said. The only visible sign is warts, and not all people will develop them, she said.

Most women find out about the diagnosis when they have an abnormal Pap smear. If the problem becomes serious, the virus can cause future problems with childbirth.

The shot is currently not available for men, Joseph said. It’s a lot harder to test men for the virus, but in the future the vaccine will most likely be offered to them.

If the shot becomes available to men, pre-medical students Peter Burkill and Paul Warner said they would think about getting it, but the cost of the shot would still be an issue.

“Supposedly it’s the most expensive,” Burkill said. “That’s the kind of money I don’t have.”

Warner said that because he’s not promiscuous, he plans on always getting himself and his partner tested ahead of time to prevent the spread of infections.

Burkill said he doesn’t worry about getting the virus because he trusts the people he’s sexually involved with.

“I figure most people I’ve been with are tested for these types of things,” he said.