Friday, November 20, 2009

Sex Rehab For America

Are you old enough to long for the good old days when the worst STDs were quickly cured with a shot or a pill, and no one had their good health wrecked or died from a sexual encounter or relationship? Or you're too young to remember those days, but imaginative enough imagine what those times were like?

I don't think my young teenage daughter can (more about her in a few moments), and my young adult son doesn't even bother. All they know is that the time period they're living in doesn't have some of the perks that my generation did.

For example:

"A Pap test for one in five American adolescent girls will show an abnormality, but the vast majority of low-grade cervical lesions - up to 90 percent - will get better on their own within three years. Among older women, the rates are lower, but low-grade lesions still rarely progress to the pre-cancerous stage.

These are generally caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV for short. About half of all people are infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime, although the infection often goes away on its own. (Only in some cases does the virus damage cervical cells, causing abnormalities that can be picked up on a Pap test.)

This week the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) issued new guidelines that women should have their first Pap test by age 21, and every other year after that instead annually, citing that cervical cancer for women under the age of 30 is extremely rare, and that for the 15 to 19 year old group, only one to two for every million teens.

By changing its guidelines, ACOG is breaking ranks with the other main authorities on cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society and the USPSTF both recommend that women get their first Pap test within three years of having sex, or at age 21." (source1, also see source 2)

I trust the American Cancer Society more. Their guidelines make sense to me, particularly if 100% condom use is not in your bag of tricks to keep the cooties and killers away.

And fellas, I don't know what to say about y'all. Guys don't have to deal with cervical cancer caused by HPV, but they catch this virus as much as the ladies, and like them, can also get warts and lesions in those delicate places.

I recently watched the full episode 1 of Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, on cable. He told his pro-surfer patient during an exam that he saw a damn "lesion" in his throat. Hope for the guy's sake it was just an oddly placed cold sore or good old fashioned bacterial gonorrhea, which generally is easily cured with medication. I'd give you the link to that episode but vh1 didn't include it in their online show clips.

Personally, as a woman (and if I was a man), I think long and hard about going south on anyone if not in a long term, trusting relationship. And swallowing? Fuggitaboutit.

I can't help but think that upcoming changes in our health care system has something to do with the ACOG's decision, even though on the face of it, it makes sense - particularly for teen girls and women in monogamous relationships with men they believe to be monogamous, and have had few sexual partners, and have been consistent in condom use.

This also comes at a time when recommendations for mammograms have been reduced from the first one at age 50 instead of age 40.

I ain't never been one for getting my titties radiated, but that's a luxury I can afford since breast cancer is nearly non-existent on both sides of my family and only occurred in one aunt after the age of 65. But if my family history was different, I'd be more than pissed if my insurance - if I had any - refused to pay based on new mammogram guidelines.

I also can't help but wonder if the ACOG's revised guidelines are the result of pressure from the Big Pharma Pushers of everything from the mercury-containing, untested Swine Flu vaccine to the anti-HPV vaccine, Guardasil, for girls as young as nine and up to their early 20s.

Even Immigration got suckered into their lobbying - last summer the US Citizen & Immigration Services used the CDC's revisions to make the HPV vaccine "a requirement for female applicants seeking to adjust status to become legal permanent residents."

When I first heard about Guardasil last year, I pointed out the benefits and the rare but not rare enough horrific side effects, and was waffling on whether or not to have my virgin daughter take the series of three shots.

I finally resolved the issue by telling my daughter that it's in her best interest to delay sexual activity as long as possible, keep her sex partners to minimum when she does embrace womanhood, and to marry in her college years or early 20s if a loving man of quality and integrity comes knocking at her door, and dammit, to keep her eyes open for one instead of getting caught up in that hamster wheel of endless dating with guys who only want to endlessly date.

Cassie is still a virgin even though in 10th grade. She has a late year birthday and skipped a grade, so she's the youngest in her class. In addition to being smart enough to stay on the honor roll since 5th grade and being active in sports and clubs, she's blessed with common sense, far more than I had at her age. To date, she's been a worry-free kid in terms of maintenance. If she were promiscuous, I might decide otherwise.

One by one, Cassie's watching her classmates and a few of her likewise nerdy friends take the plunge into sexual activity. So far none have gotten pregnant, but one did have her first Guardasil shot. I hadn't brought up the topic since initially telling her about the vaccine; she remembered the issues and brought it up to me one evening over dinner, several months ago.

"How'd she do?", I asked.

"She fainted, right there in the doctor's office."

For the next few moments, we ate in silence.


  1. Yea, we had some advantages. I think Americans are MUCH too uptight about sex, but then when you consider the ramifications of unprotected sex. . .

    My daughter is a 12th grade 17 yr old virgin. Very cool, very pretty, VERY talented artistically and VERY VERY smart. It's not that she won't, it's just that no one of value has come along yet snd she recognizes that fact. Hell, we never cared about "value" at 17.
    That's what happens when a child is taught to value themselves.

  2. You're obviously and rightly proud of your daughter. She sounds like a great kid! You should also be proud of yourself because you've fostered such a positive relationship with her. Congrats for that. It isn't easy, is it?

    I think I'm probably going to make the decision to go with the vax when my daughter gets to that age. I know that good choices can also reduce the risks that this vaccine is meant to reduce; however, bottom line: I'm fearful. How can I have confidence that my daughter's partner(s) will have always made all the same good choices I want her to make? (Although really I know that that will be her judgement to make.) And the thing that really, really eats me up is that I know that in this world not every sexual encounter is a woman's CHOICE.

    On a side note, something that is "good" about the optics for the vaccine in my province is that the vax is offered to ALL girls through school in grade 7. So, it's kinda like: we're not saying anything about where you're from or who you are or what you're going to do yadda yadda BUT it'd be nice if we were all in this together.

    On a cynical note. Funny how reductions in "universal" services seem to hit women's services first, eh? Another cynical note. Wide uptake of the vax by girls will also reduce HPV infection of men, in whom it can cause penile cancer. But who's lining up to take the risk of the vax? (Yes, yes, I know that there are probably quantitative and physiological reasons for why it is more effective and beneficial for girls but, y'know, I'm jaded.)

  3. Karen, Ask your kid's doc if she's had any patients experience side effects in her office or later. My pediatrician was very candid about the ones that happened to her. If yours gives you the bs of she can't say because of 'confidentiality', she's full of shit since you're not asking for names.

    You might also want to read my Oct 2008 post and the comments with the links to videos on the HPV vaccination here.

    If you still decide to vaccinate your daughter, please let us know how it works out for you. And good luck.


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