I was at a cancer conference the other week. One of the talks (by the überboss himself, as it happens) was about the developments we can expect to see in cancer medicine in the next few years. One of the things he was getting excited about was a vaccine against HPV, which is currently at quite an advanced stage of development.
HPV is the virus which causes cervical cancer. (No, I'm not cutting for TMI.) The virus is sexually transmitted; a clear majority of sexually active people carry the virus, although it doesn't always cause cancer. But it does cause cancer in about 3000 women per year in the UK; most of them are between the ages of 30 and 60. It's treatable if caught in the very early stages (that's why there are widespread screening programmes by means of the cervical smear test), but in the advanced stages it's incurable. The virus can also cause fertility problems, and genital warts in both sexes.
A vaccine is within reach. There's a good chance that in a few years' time, a routine injection at the start of secondary school could be saving thousands of women's lives, and preventing huge amounts of suffering. That's a pretty significant medical breakthrough, and all the evidence so far is looking positive.
But this vaccine has been blocked at every stage, the initial research, the clinical testing, and now the larger scale testing preceding setting up a national vaccination programme. Why? Because some busybodies are offended by the idea of vaccinating young teenaged girls against a sexually transmitted disease. Erosion of family values! Green light for promiscuity! Corrupting the innocent!
Well, fuck you, lobbyists. I hope you are haunted for the rest of your life by all the women who die unnecessarily and in horrible pain as a result of your stupidity. I hope that your smug self-righteousness gives you exactly no comfort when you come face to face with people who have lost friends, wives, mothers and daughters because you are a bunch of fucking prudes. I don't hope that you end up among the unfortunate people who get cervical cancer, though, because that I wouldn't wish on anybody.
How can anyone seriously believe that people dying of cancer is preferable to providing decent sex education and contraception and making the most of major medical breakthroughs like this one? Which, incidentally, are the results of years of work costing huge amounts of money. And it's not a few weirdos who think like this, it's people who have a significant influence on funding policy and laws which determine which experiments and trials are allowed to go ahead. Ugh!
Sorry to rant, people. I'd sort of like other people to get angry about this kind of idiocy, but more importantly, I want all my friends to look after yourselves. Eat a sensible diet (including plenty of fruit and veg), do a reasonable amount of exercise, cut down on smoking as much as possible, be responsible about sex, that kind of thing. Oh, and if you're female, keep up to date with your smear tests.
That makes me furious! This attitude that there is something wrong with sex, particularly women having and enjoying sex, is so outdated and stupid. It's so easy to be responsible about it and if only people could get their heads out of the 19th century, the right education could be provided to make sure that people are.
This attitude that there is something wrong with sex, particularly women having and enjoying sex, is so outdated and stupid. I agree with you in general. But I don't think that's the problem in this case, it's more about teenagers having sex. Now, I personally agree that, on the whole, twelve-year-olds shouldn't be having sex. But that's a very different thing from: twelve-year-olds shouldn't be told anything about sex, or given access to medicine and resources that will protect them if they do have sex. Grr.
if only people could get their heads out of the 19th century If only!
I think the question of how healthcare is financed is a slightly different issue. If people argued that a vaccination programme against HPV was too expensive, I'd be annoyed, but at least they'd be giving a rational argument. However unpalatable it is, in the end health services have to prioritize because they don't have unlimited resources. But yeah, a decision to exclude people from smear tests by making them pay is pretty sucky, IMO.
Grr. Argh. Makes me angry. I can completely sympathize.
Say, is there any sort of signature list or campaign one could join?? Not that I know of, specifically. This isn't really an issue in the public eye, because it's still at the testing stage. If, as seems likely, it does get to the point where a vaccination program is being proposed, and idiots are continuing to oppose it, then there will be room for a write-in campaign.
At the moment, I think the important thing is that there's a chorus of voices speaking out against general examples of this kind of attitude. I don't know if you get in Germany the kind of newspaper articles that express outrage at poor innocent children being given sex education by 'the PC brigade' who are out to corrupt them into thinking for themselves, which, as we all know, leads directly to homosexuality... But if such articles exist, please do write letters to the editor. Sometimes they print them; it's always worth a try.
Is there anyone we can write to? I don't think so, as such, because it's not an official policy at the moment. Decisions about what experiments and what clinical tests can go ahead are made by small, relatively anonymous committees, rather than, say, at government level. The committees are usually made up of a mixture of experts and bigwigs, which is kinda fair, on the whole; it's basically a good thing that such ethical decisions are not made exclusively by scientists. I must admit, though, I'm not really an expert on exactly how the procedure works.
I can only suggest looking out in the next few years for publicity about this kind of thing. It's possible that this technology may never get general release, but it seems pretty probable, as far as it's possible to predict, that the vaccine will be available soon. And when that happens it'll be pretty big news, so at that stage, you might well see people raising stupid objections. That would be the time to write to MPs and to any media organizations that give stage time to this sort of nonsense.
Low. There's only one tangentally related study on it AFAIK (and one Bush dislikes) saying that abstinance only sex-ed produces no change in the pregnancy rates as against no teaching (teaching about contraception lowers the rates).
It sounds like the sort of thing the US government might get up to, but I'm shocked to learn it goes on in the UK. The thing is that it's not the government's fault, per se. And I don't think there's an official organization of idiots who regularly campaign for the principle of denying teenagers access to anything even tangentially related to sex. It's not, as such, a political issue.
It's a bit like the MMR row, I think (not totally convinced this is a good analogy, but anyway). At the moment, the government seems to be resisting pressure to stop providing the triple vaccine. But the pressure is there. There are lots of people out there who believe that 'MMR causes autism', and there's a lot of media noise about how evil 'scientists' or 'the government' are forcing the dangerous vaccine on poor innocent children. But there's no formal lobby or group that's politically anti-MMR.
Hypocritical attitudes to sex certainly do exist in this supposedly enlightened country. Just pick up a tabloid newspaper some time if you don't believe me! It's always difficult to fight an amorphous enemy, but every voice that speaks out against the multifarious examples of the kind of attitude I'm ranting about is one more voice on the right side.