Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Being Personal In the Name of Public Service

Though the farthest I'll go in talking about my personal life is little tasty tidbits about friends and daily doings (but not boyfriends or dates), I'll make a public service exceptions. Without conveying anything about my romantic life and definitely nothing about my sex life, I will relate today's trip to get the new HPV vaccine.

I'm incredibly lazy sometimes at taking care of myself, and this means I can go for days without sleep, hours without eating, and only hours without coffee. But I get a "Women's Exam" every year, which is a pelvic exam, pap smear, and breast exam. I do this whether or not I've had sexual intercourse at any point in that year, and there were definitely some years between relationships where the exam seemed like an unnecessary chore. I know I seem startingly candid about this, but I really can't stress the importance of taking care of your body now and later. I used to write a sexual health column for my college feminist newspaper, and give sexual health presentations at the "Women's Center." Sexual morality has nothing to do with it--every woman above the age of 18 should be having a yearly exam to make sure her ovaries are where they should be, her uterus isn't tilted, her cycle regular, that there are no medically threatening cysts or fibroids, and that there are no STIs or yeast infections that if left untreated could lead to more serious conditions and/or infertility. So I've been pretty good about that, each year getting an exam, making sure I'm cancer-free and that when I am ready to have kids, that I will be able to have them. Reproductive and general physical health can have everything or almost nothing to do with your present sex life.

I have been lazy, however, about getting the new HPV vaccine. It came out last summer, and despite having graduate health insurance, I never got around to getting the shot--until today. Thanks, to The Best Friend, for reminding me. It's a three-dose vaccine, the second and third shots given two months and six months later, respectively. So it's a drawn out process that you should start, unlike me, as soon as possible. The vaccine is approved for women ages 13-26, and I turn 27 next fall. It's something to consider getting NOW if you're going to be turning 27 soon (the efficacy for women above 26 is still being tested, and insurance might not cover if you are over I presume) or if your graduate health insurance is about to expire. I spent a year sans insurance in between law schools, and while that seems stupid and unimaginable (think: unemployed), I know this can happen to many a young graduate. So if you have insurance that will soon expire and you don't think you'll be able to afford to self-insure or pay for the immunization, and if your 27th birthday approaches: get the shots now, or at least start the immunization. About 50% of people are or have been infected with HPV and don't even know it, and men can be silent carriers. And it's not so easily protected against using conventional prophylactics. It sucks. So try to prevfent yourself from being infected with HPV.

The HPV vaccine is a muscle shot, which means my upper arm is a bit sore and typing, six hours later, is kind of tiresome. But it's worth it, for some peace of mind. So, whatever your views on sexual morality, get the shot, get your yearly exam. It's that whole "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" thing.

End of Public Service Announcement.