What Michael Douglas Taught Me: Get Vaccinated!

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So after Michael Douglas told The Guardian that his particular type of throat cancer was linked to HPV, I decided to do some personal investigative work into the matter. Like a lot of guys, I had the silly idea that the  HPV vaccine was just for women. Little did I know, HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is actually the most common sexually transmitted disease affecting everyone, regardless of gender.

In America, talking about sex, and especially sexually transmitted diseases, can be kind of awkward — but just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about it! Ours is a sexual society, and we should have an open discussion about it so that we can help stop the spread of STDs among young people!

The staff at the clinic I went to for my research were really open to sitting down and having a great conversation about HPV. They urged me that as a young male I should most DEF be getting the HPV vaccine (all three shots necessary for the vaccine) because being proactive could literally save my life someday.

Anyway, enough preaching from me! Here are the deets:

+ Seven Things You Need to Know About HPV:

1. HPV is the most common STD. HPV is so common that 50 percent of Americans will have HPV at some point in their lives. It’s not just women who are affected, but men too. It’s important to break down that misinformation! There are more than 40 types of  this viral infection, which can infect the genitals, anus or throat. Some types of HPV can cause warts or cancer.

2. HPV can be easily spread. HPV is transmitted through oral, vaginal and anal sex. It can also be passed on during skin-to-skin sexual contact. Condoms can help protect against HPV sexual transmission.

3. HPV often has no symptoms. Most people pass HPV on to someone else without ever identifying symptoms or knowing they are infected.  Yikes!

4. There is no HPV test commonly used for young people. All women who are sexually active women or over 21 should get regular screenings for pre-cancerous cells (Pap test). There is currently no HPV test recommended for men, which is why it’s so important for women to get regular Pap tests — and to see a doctor if any symptoms, like warts, pop up.

5. HPV has no cure, but related problems are treatable. There is no cure for HPV, but there are ways to treat HPV-related problems. For example, warts can be removed, frozen off or treated through topical medicines. Even after treatment, the virus can remain and cause the warts to come back, though.

6. Most HPV infections will never cause cancer. The vast majority of HPV strains and HPV cases don’t cause cancer. It’s still important for women to get a regular Pap smear to screen for any cell abnormalities that might lead to cervical cancer, but HPV infection does not mean you’ll automatically get cancer.

7. HPV vaccines are available for both men and women, and they are the best way to protect against the most common types of HPV. There are three doses to the vaccine, and it is important to get ALL THREE. Girls and women ages 11 to 26 and boys and men ages 11 to 21 should get all three shots in the series before becoming sexually active. Not having sex or any sexual contact is a good way to avoid getting HPV, but if you aaaarrre having sex, even using condoms every time can’t completely prevent the spread of HPV.

Just like many vaccines, the three-shot series doesn’t come free. In fact, the three shots can cost $130 per shot (yikes!). So, after I got my first round, I sat down with the billing lady to figure out my various payment options. Because my insurance was declined, I was informed that my state actually supplied some of the vaccines at a lower rate of $20 for those who have insurance problems. I obvi accepted this offer — and it is something you should definitely look into when you go to get the vaccine.

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