Despite proposed changes proposed in new bill, health teacher encourages HPV vaccine for all teens

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that 90 percent of sexually active men and 80 percent of sexually active women will be infected within their lifetime. It’s a 50/50 chance that someone is infected with a low or high-risk HPV. Low risk can clear up on its own, but high-risk can cause various cancers. House File 187 would remove requirements to teach seventh and eighth graders about the availability of an HPV vaccine that prevents over 70 percent of HPV related cancers

Health teacher Jay Teply said, “From my understanding, the bill won’t forbid the teaching of these subjects but just no longer require it in school, so I would hope the students would still get the appropriate information and be able to make an educated decision based off that.  I fear in some places that health teachers may let their own beliefs on vaccines guide their teaching, which would leave students uninformed, but I don’t see anything changing to CF’s curriculum because of this bill.”

As for the reasons for this change, Teply said he is unsure. “It’s hard to say what the true motivation is but my guess is that they want to allow more freedom in the curriculum. It seems strange to say that teaching about a certain subject is required. Health teachers should have a good understanding of the subjects that are most beneficial to students and should build a curriculum around that rather than teaching about something because it’s required.”

Teply said his recommendation for students is “First and foremost, get the vaccine. It is proven to be the No. 1 strategy in preventing HPV, and, of course, like all STDs, if you are sexually active, practice safe sex by wearing a condom along with getting tested with every new partner.” 

Teply said to prevent the stigma around HPV education, “you can educate yourself and keep the conversation going. Stigma of any kind is strengthened by silence.  The more we talk about it and focus on the truths over the myths then we can begin to wipe the stigma away.”

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