How sex education in our schools can save lives

A vaccine exists to prevent the HPV virus, which can cause cervical cancer. Schools should teach students about the sexually transmitted virus and the readily available vaccine.

By

Opinion

February 17, 2020 - 10:20 AM

Courtney Banzer, 27, receives an HPV vaccine from Dana Varon at Harborview Women's Research clinic in Seattle, Washington. Photo by (Benjamin Benschneider/Seattle Times/MCT)

When Abba M. learned that a sexual partner had exposed her to the human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, she did “a bunch of Googling.” The 21-year-old Alabama resident knew very little about it.

Turning to her friends proved unhelpful. Most, like Abba, had never learned about the virus in school. “HPV isn’t really a thing,” a friend told her. “You have it, but you don’t have it, so don’t worry about it.”

To the contrary, HPV is something people, especially girls and women, ought to worry about. In fact, it’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in America, and it leads to around 35,000 cases of cancer annually. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, which kills around 4,200 U.S. women each year.

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