When Baby Boomers came of age and the sexual revolution began, we could thank the pharmaceutical industry for introducing the birth control pill at just the right time.
No longer faced with the prospect of an unwanted pregnancy, Boomers embraced free love. In retrospect we were also an extremely lucky generation. Sexually transmitted diseases were not as rampant as they are today. Most STDs were treatable and not life-threatening. All of this freedom came at a price. Today, anyone with an active sex life is also faced with the horror of AIDS and more than 40 varieties of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) as well as dozens of other STDs that are not necessarily preventable even with the use of condoms.
Fortunately the pharmaceutical industry has come through once more with a vaccine (Gardasil) that has the potential to prevent most HPV infections, a leading cause of cervical cancer. If I were young and not in a monogamous relationship I’d be first in line to get jabbed with the vaccine. If I had a son or daughter I’d encourage them to do the same thing — and hepatitis as well. What a gift. I’m not a health care expert but the prospect of preventing this horrible and incurable disease is a no-brainer.
In a discussion with a girlfriend the other day, I asked whether her 20-something son had been vaccinated. The question caught her off-guard. As a conscientious mother with a peach of a son, she had never considered this before. It’s a fact that guys/men can be unwitting transmitters of HPV without displaying any symptoms. And condoms do not provide 100% protection against the virus.
The May 2014 issue of Zoomer magazine has an excellent article about the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases among Baby Boomers as well as in seniors already in extended living and other retirement facilities. The article describes actor Michael Douglas’ struggle with throat cancer that was caused by an HPV virus passed through oral sex that remained dormant in his body for years. Just because we got off lucky in our younger days doesn’t mean we don’t need to be vigilant now. Men can be oblivious carriers of infection and as women we face the prospect of devastating cervical cancer if we’re not careful.
As a mother, grandmother, aunt or friend, please encourage not only the women but also the males in your life to investigate with their doctor their role in prevention. Not only is it the gentlemanly thing to do, it could save the life of a female you love. Prevention of cervical cancer is not just a women’s issue.