HPV can be harmless in many instances, but in some women who contract it, it can develop into cervical cancer. And while only women can develop cervical cancer as a result of HPV, males can develop it and pass it on to their sexual partners and, since the disease takes years to develop and cause any problems, they might not even know that they have it. Because of this, women should get the HPV vaccine.
Every year I get a physical to make sure I am healthy. I sit in the lobby of my doctor’s office and fill out a sheet of paper describing how I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been eating. I rub my arms, I email a few people about some work, I text someone. Finally, I’m called back into the office. I take off my shirt, I bend over and touch my toes and I tell my doctor how I’ve been doing. Last year, I had some questions about sex and we glossed over that as she put me on birth control. The same year, she sat me down, asked about my sex life and we talked about the HPV vaccination.
Adolescents engaging in sexual activity don’t always know what they are doing. I know I didn’t. It can be very awkward and messy and there are many questions they have without having a real place to go and ask these questions. Knowing that, it can be challenging to ask someone in bed whether or not they have been vaccinated for HPV or if they have some other STD.
Because young women are at such a high risk for developing cervical cancer from HPV, we have to ask the question of whether or not they should get the vaccine. While I am all for the health of others and I strongly believe that we should do everything to keep ourselves and others healthy, I don’t believe it should be a compulsory vaccine, even though it should be made available and women who want it and who are sexually active should get it.
While cervical cancer is a horrible disease for a young woman to develop, it is her body and it is not a disease that she can pass to another person. Additionally, when we have sex, it is consensual sex. It is our duty to ask our partners questions about their visits to doctors and their vaccine history. It is a personal responsibility to decline sex if we do not trust our partners or feel safe having sex with them.
At the end of the day, sexually active young women would be safer getting the HPV vaccine. They would not have to worry about years later developing cervical cancer from simply sleeping with a boy they went to a party with in high school or even a boyfriend they had before. But this decision should be left up to the young woman, she should decide for herself and she should be able to decide when she gets this shot, if she ever chooses to. This is her body we are talking about—she shouldn’t be required to share it with anyone.