Tag Archives: HPV vaccine

Thanksgiving 2013: So Much to Be Thankful For

Laurie and Debbie say:

There’s so much good news that we’re leaving stuff out! Let’s start with an in-your-face inspiring video.

“Say it right or don’t say it at all,” says Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley, 2012 National Poetry Slam Championship Team, in a video entitled “For All the Little Black Girls with Big Names (dedicated to Quevenzhane’ Wallis).

There are rays of hope for the earth: The European Union has banned the neocotinoid pesticides which are almost certainly responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder which is destroying bees around the world. Massachusetts has signed contracts for wind-generated electricity at a lower price than traditional coal and nuclear energy. In Debbie’s back yard, river otters and ospreys are coming back to Lake Merritt, a human-made lake in Central Oakland.

river otter with fish in mouth

On a human note, extreme poverty in the world is actually seriously declining. And, contrary to the pattern of contemporary corporations, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are making HPV vaccines (which prevent cervical cancer) available in poor countries at an almost affordable price (though of course it could be even less).

South Korean transgender people can now change their legal gender without changing their genitals. And in California, transgender students can now select both bathrooms and athletic affiliations based on their self-chosen identity. Perhaps even more surprising, California children can now have three legal parents.

The United States government has actually done some constructive things this year. The Affordable Care Act may have gotten off to a shaky start, but it is certainly improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And Vermont is parlaying it into single-payer, the kind of health care we’d really like to see. Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate finally went some distance to limit the filibuster, which has become a tactic of uncontrolled Republican obstructionism . And in the most amazing recent news, the Obama Administration has made a preliminary deal with Iran about nuclear weapons and sanctions, which may even spread to help end the war in Syria.

The Catholic Church has selected an Argentinian pope who is committed to consensus, community, and feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Among Pope Francis’s public statements since assuming the papacy are opposition to fracking as part of of his anticapitalist stance. He wants to see the power of the Church  un-Vatican-centered.

We wrote last year about Rolling Jubilee, and now they have bought $15 million dollars in random medical debt, and torn it up. The most recent large buy removed debt from 1900 debtors, with the largest single debtor having $237,000 in debt. Their website says “and more to come.” The debt forgiveness is real, but the underlying intention to call attention to the trillions of dollars of debt which burdens more than 70% of Americans

Ann Makosinski holding the flashlight she invented

And then there’s Ann Makosinski, the 15-year-old girl in Canada, who invented a flashlight powered by the heat of your hand.

We could actually add a lot more, but this seems like a fine assortment. We’re taking Thanksgiving weekend off, and we hope you are doing something wonderful!

“Oral Sex”: Forbidden Subject + HPV Causes Cancer

Debbie says:

I was browsing something else the other day when I saw a sidebar headline that said, more or less, “Michael Douglas reveals that oral sex caused his throat cancer.” I didn’t click the link at the time.

Today, I find Jessica Luther saying “We need a better way to talk about cunnilingus.”

So, Michael Douglas mentioned cunnilingus in an interview (and whether he *should* have is a different post) and everyone blushed, giggled, and immediately stopped making eye contact with everyone else. Or they said “gross” and acted like they were embarrassed for him.”

  • I wish Douglas good luck with his health; he has been through hard times and is still undergoing regular check-ups for recurrence.
  • Of course we don’t have a good way to talk about cunnilingus. We don’t have a good way to talk about any kind of sex, pretty much, and the ways that please women are lowest on the list. Douglas may (I hope!) be moving us further along the trail blazed by Lorena Bobbitt in 1993, when she cut off the end of her husband John’s dick and forced the national news to learn how to say “penis” on television.
  • I think Douglas absolutely should have talked about this. I didn’t know about the link between oral sex and oral cancers (and I’m pretty well informed about these things, which means lots of other people also don’t know), so good on him for publicizing it. Also, despite what headlines you may have read, he absolutely did not say that oral sex caused his throat cancer: he said it might have done so, which is accurate.
  • It also means he goes down on his lovers, which not all (heterosexual) men do, and not all (heterosexual) men who do will admit, so good on him for that.

Digging a little into the link between oral sex and oral cancer immediately leads to HPV (human papillomavirus) as the cause. I was already aware of the link between HPV and cervical cancer, and wrote here several years ago about some of the controversy surrounding HPV vaccination.At least one study seems to show that oral sex in the presence of HPV not only causes oral cancers, the presence of HPV also vastly increases a person’s likelihood of surviving oral cancers when they happen.

Two vaccines against HPV exist; both are generally only effective in people young enough not to have been exposed to HPV. Both are owned and marketed by Big Pharma, which has a vested interest in making them mandatory. (Why did so-called conservative Texas governor Rick Perry support mandatory HPV vaccination? Whose pocket was he in?) Both are better tested in teenage girls than in teenage boys, though there is data indicating that they may be effective with boys as well.

Vaccines in general are surprisingly (and indefensibly) controversial in the United States in the 21st century. The HPV vaccine would almost certainly be controversial even in the days when vaccination was taken for granted, because it implies to parents that their children might *gasp* be sexually active. I continue to believe, as I did in 2007, that I would encourage a pre-teen daughter to get the vaccine; I would do some more research before encouraging a son to do the same (and a son might only be able to depending on where he was living at the time).  I’d also like to see more data on the link between HPV and survival of oral cancers.

The more transparent we can be, the more we can talk about sexual behaviors in a calm, reasoned manner, the better off we are. We’d probably have better ways to talk about sex if we didn’t wait for movies stars and knife-wielding abused wives to open the dialogue, rather than paying attention to scientists and study results. Similarly, we probably wouldn’t wait for the movie stars and knife wielders if we had better ways to talk about sex.