Awareness of the human papillomavirus and its potential to cause cervical cancer has grown in recent years. To educate teens and families about HPV, The Duke Endowment in 2007-2010 funded a $430,870 pilot program to develop school-site education and vaccination programs that would increase the number of girls protected against the virus.
Experts have identified more than 130 types of HPV, a common virus that often has no symptoms. In about 90 percent of cases, the body's immune system is able to clear the infection on its own within two years. But in some instances, according to the American Cancer Society, HPV strains can lead to cervical cancer in women.
At least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire an HPV infection at some point in their lives. A 2007 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that of the estimated 27 million women between the ages of 14 and 59 in the United States infected with HPV, about 3 percent are infected with strains targeted by Gardasil, a new vaccine.
Reducing the Risk of Cervical Cancer Through Vaccination
Combining the Gardasil vaccine with regular Pap screenings can reduce the risk of cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against key strains of cancer-causing HPV; Pap tests detect others not blocked by the vaccine.
Because the Gardasil vaccine is most effective when administered before sexual activity, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls, as well as those ages 13 to 26 who have not been vaccinated.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website contains information on human papillomavirus and the HPV vaccine.
- The American Cancer Society website offers information about cervical cancer.
To prevent the spread of the human papillomavirus by increasing access to a vaccine that protects against strains of the virus, The Duke Endowment partnered with county health departments and local public school systems to develop school-site education and vaccine programs. The program sought to:
- Create a model for the state-wide dissemination of the vaccine complemented by a strong educational component
- Educate parents and guardians of sixth grade girls on the vaccine's potential to prevent HPV, and evaluate receptivity to and acceptance of the HPV vaccine
- Decrease the number of new HPV cases, with a drop in the number of cervical cancer cases as well
Guilford County Department of Public Health, Greensboro
Spartanburg County Department of Health and Environmental Control, Spartanburg