Interactive HPV panel gets students talking about issues in student sexual health
The Women and Gender Studies Cottage was alive Wednesday night as students piled in to listen to a panel of volunteers speak about the myths, realities and new vaccine for Human Papillomavirus.
The event was created as part of a month-long endeavor in November to raise awareness about HPV in a campaign dubbed “Choose to Know.”
“We were sitting around the W (Women’s Resource Center) one day, and realized that HPV is very prevalent in our society, but we don’t know what it is, so we contacted Jonna Fleming at sexual health,” said Sarah Lowe, an English major and student volunteer at the Women’s Resource Center.
Speakers included Barbara Oonk, a nurse practitioner, Jennifer Langsfeld, a CU grad living with HPV, Matt Brown, a sociology professor living with HPV and Peter Vielher, a coordinator with Wardenburg’s Sexual Health Program.
“HPV is the most common STI on campus,” said Jonna Fleming, the sexual health education coordinator at Wardenburg. “It is the common cold of the genitals.”
-8 out of 10 people will contract HPV at some point in their lives.
-HPV can be low-, moderate- or high-risk
-Complications from HPV kill nearly 4,000 women yearly.
-Men are considered the “silent carriers” of HPV.
-HPV can be contracted through anal sex.
-HPV can lie dormant for years.
-There is no way to test for HPV in men. Visible warts are the only way to tell.
-HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact.
This is not to say that every strand will eventually lead to cancer.
“There are 100 types of HPV. Of those, four are high-risk and lead to cervical cancer,” Oonk said.
With regular yearly Pap smears (and anal Pap smears for men, particularly gay men), the likelihood of protecting yourself against cervical cancer increases dramatically.
Women as young as the age of nine are eligible to receive the vaccine, and testing for a men’s vaccination is in the works.
“The vaccine will be given as a series of three shots over a period of six months,” Oonk said. “It costs $149, and most private insurance companies cover it.”
It will take a year for Wardenburg to make changes to their plan, she said.
“Student insurance plans – like those provided to CU students – will not be covering the vaccination for another year,” Oonk said.
In the meantime, students can protect themselves by using condoms, getting Pap smears and being open with their partner or partners.
One panelist said she had contracted HPV from her first and only partner five years ago.
“It’s really hard to tell someone you have an STI,” Langsfeld said.
To help protect themselves, students received sexual health “goody bags” at the event, complete with a pamphlet about the virus, bracelets, lubricant, condoms and plastic frogs with information about HPV attached to them.
One student was even selected to win a vibrator provided by Hysteria, a “sex-positive” shop in Denver.
“We just want it to be sex positive. Sex is fun, so we have the toy raffle to keep the conversation light,” Lowe said.