Friday, March 20, 2015

Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine and the Unsafe Sex Canard

A recent study asks 'Does HPV [Human Papilloma Virus] Vaccination Promote Unsafe Sex in Adolescent Females?' and the answer is a resounding 'no'.
Those who followed similar questions about condom promotion 'promoting' unsafe sex, comprehensive sex education 'promoting' unsafe sex, and the like, will be unsurprised, because all of these interventions have had positive impacts, and all have been shown not to result in increases in unsafe sex.
On the other hand, the $1.3 billion that PEPFAR, the (US) President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, spent on abstinence and faithfulness programs "showed no evidence the messages had any impact on behavior or HIV risks".
I wonder how many billions of non-PEPFAR money went into similarly ineffective programs, and how much is still being spent on programs either destined to fail, or destined to do more harm than good, such as the massive male circumcision programs currently underway.
One piece of research found that "[T]here was no evidence of a reduction of [HIV] incidence in women as a consequence of the reduction in HIV prevalence in men due to circumcision". And that's after nearly seven years of circumcising people and assuring them that incidence among women will also drop.
They now say it could take ten years to see any impact on women, something I don't remember hearing when the programs were being aggressively promoted. So we should see results in three years time in Rakai, then? Of course, it will be difficult to tell which were the effective programs in a place where so many HIV activities are taking place at the same time.
The only evidence about the effect of mass male circumcision on male to female transmission of HIV is that it increases it by 50%, yet women are a lot more likely to be infected than men already, and this is being aggressively marketed to women as well as men.
HPV is vaccine preventable, yet in the US an estimated 25% of females between age 14-19 are infected. HPV causes cancer and genital warts. But "vaccination rates are low, partly because of a perception that vaccination may promote unsafe sexual activity among recipients."
This irrational fear of 'unsafe sex' appears to increase the risk of HPV and its consequences, also the risk of HIV, unplanned pregnancy and various other avoidable conditions. Advances in public health appear to evoke the most extraordinary reactions in some people.