Wednesday, October 22, 2008

HPV and Vietnam

I wrote this comment on Ching's blog (Real Life Online), in reference to a post about cervical cancer.
I'm a guy and all, so take this comment in that light. But I think that women get cervical cancer because of simpler reasons - namely HPV, an STD that is very prevalent, nearly a 50% infection rate, and very infectious and people die from cervical cancer because of a lack of access to medical care (i.e. Pap smears).

Condoms do not prevent HPV infections. Because of this, in the narrowly focused, conservative political right of the U.S., the scare tactics surround HPV is used to press for ineffective abstinence only sex education.

Good thing for women these days is the progress on HPV vaccines. While it does not prevent all types of HPV infections (there are like 100 strains or something like that), Guardasil is a recently introduced vaccine that is effective against some significant HPV strains.

In the U.S., again for political reasons, it is marketed as an anti-cervical cancer vaccine instead of as an anti-HPV vaccine. Guardasil faces an uphill battle for acceptance in the U.S. marketplace. And there are enough politicians who will make sure that tax dollars will not support Guardasil vaccinations for those who would otherwise qualify (medically and economically).

Interestingly, I recently read in the Vietnamese local press that the government here will start a Guardasil vaccination program for its citizens. Of course the Vietnamese government likely cannot afford to vaccinate all young girls / young women, but they'll get to some of them and it'll be a start.

Funny that Vietnam will be more advanced on this issue of HPV infection than the U.S.
There are a lot of things that are 'backwards' in Vietnam as compared to the U.S. - ok, backwards is a harsh term.  There are a lot of things here that I'm not as comfortable with.  But one thing that strikes me is that, every once in a while, this Socialist government which at its apogee is one of technocrats, gets it right with technical policy decisions.    

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