The truth about Gardasil

Gardasil, the vaccine for certain strains of HPV, sounds like a miracle drug.

It very well could be, in some circumstances.

The vaccine can prevent infection of HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 if the person receives it prior to exposure. Types 16 and 18 are two of the causes of cervical cancer. Types 6 and 11 can cause genital warts. So, indirectly, this vaccine can prevent cancer and other STDs.

But before you run off to the doctor’s office and get that series of three shots and give the doctor a couple hundred bucks, please read on.

This is not a cure-all. The “Tell someone” commercials and buzz surrounding the vaccine are both a little misleading. Yes, this vaccine has the potential to do a lot of good for a lot of people. But, you can also help yourself without emptying your wallet. Even at the DeWeese Health Center, it costs $150 a dose because it’s a new vaccine.

Genital HPV infections are spread through sexual contact. This is why many states are considering making the vaccine mandatory for girls before they reach puberty and eventually become sexually active.

To help prevent the spread of HPV, as well as other STDs, always practice safe sex. Know who your partner is. This involves knowing more than his or her name, favorite color, likes and dislikes. If you are going to have sex with someone, you owe it to yourself to know as much about the other person’s sexual history as possible. One simple act of pleasure can easily lead to a lifetime of pain and regret.

Though it isn’t a perfect solution, use a condom. While not 100 percent effective in preventing the spread of HPV, it will still offer some protection.

If you are looking for 100 percent protection, however, there is a very simple solution: Don’t have sex.

Please don’t misunderstand us. The vaccine is a great advance in medicine and in the fight against STDs. By all means, if it’s something you think you need, set up an appointment with your doctor. But please, make sure to make an informed decision.

Commercials for Gardasil show it as this cancer-stopping miracle cure for which the world has been waiting. This is what happens when drug companies advertise their products instead of letting medical professionals do their job.

Gardasil does not cure cancer. It can prevent cervical cancer by protecting a person from an HPV infection. While it does guard against the types that cause most of the cervical cancer and genital warts cases, it does not protect against all of the types.

The vaccine is very expensive. Not every insurance agency covers it. Make sure you check with your insurance agency before you set up an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Above all, talk to your doctor. He or she can answer any of the questions you have about HPV, the vaccine and safe sex. Schedule regular appointments with your gynecologist and get pap smears. This precaution, though uncomfortable to say the least, is noninvasive and can detect an infection long before it causes too much trouble.

The above opinion is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.