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by Jontue A. Martin, staff writer

Here are some facts about college students and sex, nationwide, according to a University of Albany, N.Y., study:

· 86.1 percent had sexual intercourse.

· 34.5 percent have had sexual intercourse with six or more sex partners.

· Only 29.6 percent reported that either they or their partners had used a condom during the last time of intercourse.

· 35.1 percent reported that they had become pregnant or gotten someone pregnant.

Add to these the a information that was developed by the American Social Health Association: 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected by the genital strain of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the proven precursor to cervical cancer.

And, according to research published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “[HPV] is an epidemic among college-age adults; 43 percent of college women studied were HPV infected at some point over the three-year study.”

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that you may not even know that you have because it is spread by skin to skin contact and can be transmitted even if you use a condom.

There are 100 different types of HPV, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further: “More than 30 of these viruses are sexually transmitted, and they can infect the genital areas of men and women.”

Also, the virus is asymptomatic, which means that there are no symptoms to show that you have it.
Two types of this virus can trigger genital warts, but the real danger is that 15 types can lead to cervical cancer in about 15 percent of young women who contract the virus, according to Christine Waldron, an Ob-Gyn at Women’s Health Care of New England. “For about 85 percent of the young girls who contract HPV, their immune systems can fight it, and even those who contract a high- risk type of HPV may not develop cervical cancer,” said Waldron.

Abstinence is the best way to avoid contracting HPV. While use of a condom does not completely prevent spreading, as the condom does not cover the entire male genitals, it does lower the risk of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer.”

The American Cancer Society recommends also getting regular tests from your Ob-Gyn, in order to check for signs of cervical cancer and HPV infection. The ACS has estimated that about 10,520 women developed invasive cervical cancer, and about 3,900 women died from it in 2004. The women who developed cancer had not had regular cervical cancer screening.

In addition to protective measures and regular cervical examinations, a vaccine is now available that can protect against four HPV types that together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently licensed this vaccine, Gardasil®, for use in girls and women ages 9-26 years. The vaccine is ideal for girls and women to receive the shot before they become sexually active, as any contact with HPV reduces the vaccine’s effectiveness. Women who are pregnant should not be vaccinated.

Even if you have been vaccinated, you should continue to get regular cervical cancer screenings, because the vaccine does not protect against all of the types of HPV or all types of cancers. For more information on human papilloma virus (HPV), cervical cancer, or the vaccine, visit the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control at: www.cdc.gov.

If you are sexually active, consult your Ob-Gyn and take other measures to protect yourself and reduce the spread of HPV. The life you save may be your own.

 
 

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