| Staff Columnist

Getting any sexually transmitted disease is a terrifying thought for most. The fact that some strains may go on to cause even more life threatening illnesses, such as cancer, only adds to the fear. However, since 2006, when the FDA first approved the GARDASIL vaccination for females aged 9 to 26, and 2009 when it was approved for males aged 9 to 26, there has been a chance to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) that may cause genital warts or lead to cancer. And while GARDASIL’s advertising strategy has been targeted mostly toward women, in reality it is a vaccination that many males should seriously look into as well.

Specifically, GARDASIL helps prevent types 6, 11, 16 and 18 of HPV. These strains have been identified as strains that cause 75 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of cases of genital warts. While some may argue that it is mainly the women who choose to get inoculated who will reap the benefits of this prevention, that is not the case. It is true that women more commonly get the genital warts and cervical cancer that the vaccine is advertised as preventing, but HPV also has a potentially harmful effect on males.

In males, HPV can cause genital warts as well, but rather than cervical cancer, developing anal cancer is a possibility. Also, HPV can go undetected for extended periods of time in both genders. Therefore, a man can give his partner HPV even if he is showing no signs or symptoms. By receiving the GARDASIL vaccination, he can prevent himself and his partners from getting HPV.

While many may not agree with Rick Perry’s politics, when he passed an order in Texas in 2007 requiring all schoolgirls to get vaccinated against HPV, it was a huge step in proclaiming the importance of the GARDASIL vaccine and the potential it has to enormously help in the prevention of the virus. Americans are becoming sexually active at earlier ages, sometimes when the idea of sexually transmitted diseases is not fully understood—when parents can still make the decision to vaccinate their child.

At this point, most of us on campus are young adults between the ages of 17 to 23. While (most of) our parents no longer control all of the decisions we make, it’s not too late. While expensive, getting the GARDASIL vaccine prevents even higher expenses later should you actually contract genital warts (generally more than $100 for a single bottle of medicine), or worse, cancer. We are still within the age range at which the vaccine is considered effective.

With approximately 20 million Americans currently infected with HPV, and the additional 6 million becoming infected each year, HPV is so common that about 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. That’s a scary statistic, and it is one that should be taken seriously.

At Student Health Services, which offers the vaccination, the series of three shots costs $132 per injection. However, the manufacturer of the vaccine offers a rebate program that will reimburse you for all but $30 of the cost of each shot. Even as poor college students, this is an extremely good deal, and you are unlikely to find a better one anywhere.

The college years are an environment in which sexual experimentation is such a common occurrence that it would be a disservice to both yourself and your potential future partners to not seriously consider getting vaccinated.

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