An Update to My STD Prevention Post
So late last year I had posted an article that went over STD’s and ways that they are transmitted and how you can prevent contracting one yourself. During my most recent round of testing and my annual exam with a new doctor, I learned a lot of new information about testing and transmission of HPV and herpes type I and II and wanted to share it with my readers.
First of all I wanted to update on the information about HPV and how important it is for everyone to be screened. There are over a 100 different types of the virus and over 30 of them can be transmitted sexually. Even though the newest Gardasil vaccine has been approved by the FDA and recommended for teenagers through 26 year olds, my doctor still told me I am not too old to receive the vaccine. Yes, it is more effective for people in this age group, but she said they are currently trying to get it recommended for ages up to 40. Apparently the current age group is the easiest for drugs to be approved for and takes longer for them to be approved for the 40 year old category. The one down side to the Gardasil vaccine is that it only prevents infection from HPV types 6, 11, 16, or 18, and like I said earlier there are far more types than the four listed. These types are just the most common that are currently being targeted. The testing for HPV has become more readily available and more affordable according to my OB/GYN. I was informed that the newer tests are much more accurate at finding abnormal cells located in a smaller area on the cervix while normal paps smears are a broader survey of the health of the cervical cells and can return false negatives. The one downside to the newest HPV tests is they do not recommend testing until the patient is 29 or above. I was confused as to why they would wait so long to give patients these tests, but was explained that people in their mid-20′s or younger often times get HPV’s that their body naturally combats and the doctor ends up “chasing a red herring”, as she said, with over medicating. By the time the patient is in their late 20′s-early 30′s, the tests are more accurate at finding HPV types that have started to damage the cervical cells and the body hasn’t been able to combat.
Now with herpes type I and II, I also found out new information and how testing has changed recently that greatly aids in the identification of these two specific virus types. Previously when I was visiting a clinic for my exam I had asked about herpes testing and was informed that if I had ever had the chicken pox virus or mono as a child then I would automatically test positive for herpes (even though pox is type III and mono is type IV). Testing just wasn’t easily accessible or cost effective to offer until now. Now you can be tested for the specific types of herpes instead of a broad test that was previously offered. It’s around $100 and is offered even at Planned Parenthood (though Clark County currently doesn’t offer it in their series of testing at the Health District.)
Before both tests I was warned about the odds of testing positive for herpes type I or HPV. My doctor explained to make me feel at ease, “Now if I went out on the street and pulled random people and tested them for type I herpes, 1 out of 4 would have it.” She went on to explain, “but either way it’s good to know because honestly, 30% or so of the genital outbreaks that I send off to the lab to be tested have come back as type I but in the genital region, which means it’s oral to genital contact mostly.” “Wow”, I thought. She went on to explain how easily it’s transmittable. “You could have shared a drink with someone when you were a teenager and gotten it”, she said. Also she warned me with the possibility of testing positive for HPV since there are so many forms and how my pap smears could have been normal all along but still could have had HPV. Also when reading up on these diseases did I start running across in several places how doctors are currently researching the connection between type I herpes and Alzheimer’s disease. Even more scary. I definitely held my breath for both tests after her discussion and the statistics.
Luckily everything, even type I, came back negative. Now I definitely will stay cautious in my sexual practices, even though I get complaints about my short list of rules, since it has paid off for my health.