Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 19, 2007
How can we best 'vaccinate' children against STDs?
Healthy lifestyles beat condoms, vaccines in providing protection
A Shepherd Speaks
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
Second, although condoms offer some protection against discharge-related infections such as HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea, protection may be compromised by compliance issues, incorrect use or mechanical failures.
Given the lack of protection of the condom against the spectrum of STDs and the unsuccessful attempts to achieved sustained compliance, the approval of Merc & Co's vaccine, Gardasil, was greeted with near "salvific" excitement.
Merck's marketing strategy has been resourceful, timely and tapped into some deep fears.
Reported parental reaction in the media has been supportive with comments such as "I'd be in favour of anything that prevents anyone from having to fight any kind of cancer" and "The kids all think they're so immortal, especially the younger ones. They're the ones who often think they can get away with unprotected sex."
Predictably, some medical practitioners jumped on the bandwagon and quickly proposed that every nine- to 13-year-old girl in the country should be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
Furthermore, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization says that girls and women aged 14 to 26 should also be vaccinated against human papillomavirus even if they are already sexually active because they may not have yet been infected.
Seemingly, the big question now is "Who will pay?" Girls must receive the injection three times for it to be effective, totalling a cost of $405 per patient.
Rather than ask, "Who should pay?" we would be further ahead to address the primary behaviour that predisposes individuals to sexually acquired infections.
Parents, physicians, educators and governing bodies should adopt a health-oriented approach that addresses sexual attitudes and behaviours recommending delayed genital sexual activity and partner reduction.
One of the national health objectives for 2010 developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human services is "to increase . . . the proportion of adolescents in Grades 9 to 12 who have never had sexual intercourse."
Parents must take responsibility for playing a role in the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Parents need to promote ongoing dialogue with their pre-teen and teenage offspring about relationships and sexuality.
Through both teaching, active monitoring of social and other activities, and giving overt guidance regarding appropriate and safe dating relationships, they need to protect their offspring from counterproductive influences and potential abuse.
Teens are relentlessly bombarded with sexual messages and imagery in media, entertainment, advertising and in some types of music. Although it is difficult to objectively quantify the full impact of sexual imagery, we are all aware of the impact of popular culture on both behaviour and self-image. Consider, for example, the demands for cosmetic procedures such as breast enlargements, liposuction, collagen implants and buttock enhancement.
We need to move beyond a societal preoccupation with appearance, image and measuring up to an artificially created supposed ideal; teach critical thinking skills; provide guidelines as needed; and teach right from wrong.
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