DASH of SAS: Let's talk about genital warts
If the mere mention of that word is enough to make your squirm uncomfortably in your seat, then consider some facts about genital warts.
Genital warts are bumps that sometimes look cauliflower-like in appearance and grow on the skin and mucus membranes of the genitals.
Genital warts may grow on the penis, vulva, urethra, vagina, cervix, and around and in the anus. Genital warts may be spread even when there are not visible warts in the affected area.
Globally, there are more than 1.7 million cases of genital warts among males and females. Genital warts are most prevalent in the 50-54 year old age group.
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus (HPV) and can be transferred through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activities such as vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Generally, genital warts are benign, non-life threatening.
“About 40% of all genital warts will be cleared out by the body’s natural immune system. Recurrence can go as high as 65% even with treatment,” according to Dr. Ina Crisologo, medical advisor of pharmaceutical company, MSD.
However, because genital warts can be transferred through skin contact, wearing condoms cannot provide enough protection against them.
“Only the penis is covered by the condom,” explained Crisologo. This leaves other parts of the genital area exposed; thus an HPV vaccine is recommended for additional protection.
HPV vaccines work by having the body produce neutralizing anti-bodies to protect against the HPV strains.
Cervical cancer, which is known to be caused by HPV in over 99% of cases, is the second most common cancer in women globally.
School-based vaccination program
The Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education (DepEd) and MSD launched a school–based HPV vaccination program in 41 public schools and 1 private school in Cebu and Baguio.
The school-based HPV initiative was launched in 2013 because of the increasing number of cervical cancer patients in the Philippines and worldwide.
In the Philippines, studies show that cervical cancer is the third leading cause of mortality among females as it claims the lives of 12 women each day.
According to the Filipino Cancer Registry 2005 annual report, the incidence of cervical cancer remained stable from 1980 to 2005.
In 2005, there were 7,277 new cases of cervical cancer with 3,807 reported deaths. This puts the mortality rate at 1 per 10,000 women.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends early adolescence as the best time to get vaccinated since there is no exposure yet to the virus. It is also at this time that the body mounts the highest immune response to vaccination.
The pilot program was tested among grade 5 students between the ages of 10-14 and was meant to curb the increasing incidence of diseases caused by human papillomavirus or HPV, including cervical cancer.
The campaign dubbed, Mahalaga Ka, was launched in the schools with an orientation of both parents and students to address concerns and answer questions. After the orientation, parents who agreed to have their daughters vaccinated submitted written parental consent.
The vaccine, which is administered in three doses, had a generally high turn out, with 95% of the girls targeted to receive the vaccine getting all three doses.
In one area, the vaccination coverage rate was only 43% as the school required that the actual vaccination be witnessed by the parents of the girls.
According to the DOH officials who conducted the program, there was not much resistance from the parents.
“Once, their initial concerns about vaccines supposedly causing infertility were adequately answered during the orientation, their main concern was really the health and safety of their daughters,” Dr. Elizabeth Caluag, Division Chief of National Center for Disease and Prevention Control of the DOH, said.
“We need to further utilize the role of schools to educate and communicate with parents as an opportunity to increase awareness about cervical cancer prevention,” Caluag stressed.
After the intial success of this pilot program, the DOH, the DepEd and other related agencies are exploring plans to possibly fold this HPV vaccine program under the national immunization program of the DOH. – Rappler.com
Ana P. Santos is a regular contributor for Rappler apart for her DASH of SAS column, which is a spin off of her website, http://www.sexandsensibilities.com (SAS). Follow her on Twitter at @iamAnaSantos.