I've told my roomates a few times over now and I tell all my female readers: Go get the Gardasil shots. In short, Gardasil is a preventative vaccine that protects women from contracting an STV (sexually transmitted virus) called human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.
Especially all of you "I'm not getting married 'till I'm 30 types," save your fertility and get the shot. If you stay true to your word, you're likely to have at least a couple partners (hopefully) between now and then, and that one great, respectful guy you end up with might have had some fun in Vegas (before he met you, of course) and contracted the STV without his knowledge because he hasn't and won't see the symptoms. And his ignorance could become your problem.
According to the FDA, "at least 50% of people who have had sex will have HPV at some time in their lives." The odds are against you.
I actually first heard about the shots listening to Loveline. Dr. Drew said, "We've needed this for women for a long time. It should be required that women get these shots." Today, I personally know of two women my age who have developed cervical cancer as a result of contracting HPV.
The Seattle Times published a frontpage story about Gardasil today:
"Last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licensed the use of Gardasil as the first and so far only vaccine to protect against four strains of HPV, or human papillomavirus.
"Two of the HPV strains cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, and the other two strains cause 90 percent of genital warts.
"The vaccine is recommended for girls and women ages 9 to 26, but especially for preadolescents who aren't sexually active. That's because the vaccine is preventive, rather than therapeutic, with the greatest benefit realized before exposure to HPV."
Gov. Gregoire's budget proposal requests $26.2 million for childhood vaccines, including the HPV vaccine. With lawmakers' approval, a state-sponsored HPV vaccine program would begin May 1. For girls age 11 through 18, the shots would be offered at no cost, though providers could add a charge for an office visit or administrative fees. Some state legislators have rallied to make the vaccine mandatory for entrance to school.
"There's an unprecedented amount of attention to this vaccine," said Michele Perrin, a health-promotion and communications manager with the state Department of Health. "It's a breakthrough vaccine in terms of women's health care and cancer prevention."
I stop short of requiring the vaccine at schools. This politicizes the issue. The reality is, women will only contract HPV via sexual intercourse. This is an important but preventative measure. So, just as we don't force adolescents to buy condoms before entering junior high, neither should we require girls to get the Gardasil shots.
Parents should be educated, and should consider the option for their daughters. To all my female readers, I trust your choices. I don't trust the choices of the men in your life now or in the future. Consider the Gardasil shot. I'll leave a discussion of the political and moral(?) implications of this recommendation to the comments box.