Why don’t more girls get the HPV vaccine??

Vaccines that prevent cervical cancer! YAY!

Imagine if there was a vaccine that could prevent cancer. Everyone would want it, right?

Surprisingly, no. There IS a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, which affects about 12,000 women every year, according to the CDC. Unlike most cancers, cervical cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted virus, Human Papillomavirus, also known as HPV. The virus can cause abnormal cell growth in the cervix, which can turn cancerous. The vaccine, approved in 2006, works against many common strains of HPV.

The vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11-12, and also provided to women up through their early twenties.  The goal is to protect girls long before they are ever sexually active, so that they never contract HPV in the first place. As of 2011, the vaccine is also recommended for adolescent boys.

HPV is so common that more than half of all sexually active men and women in the United States will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. According to a CDC factsheet on the HPV vaccine, “about 20 million Americans are currently affected, and 6 million more are infected every year.” In most people, HPV infections never lead to symptoms, but it can cause development of cancer of the cervix, and, more rarely, cancer of the vagina and anus, as well as genital warts. Men can also develop cancer from HPV. The virus is transmitted through skin to skin contact, so condoms are not nearly as effective at preventing the spread of this disease, as they are for many other STDs.

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Dear Texas

Dear Texas,

Your recent decision to cut off funding for women’s health care puts young and low income women and their families across your vast state in danger. I know that you claim that you are trying to prevent taxpayers from financing abortions, which is a controversial procedure, but cutting off funding for clinics that provide gynecological services and birth control is not the solution. You may not have heard this before, but birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies, which prevents abortions.

I know what you are thinking, Texas, you want to tell me that actually, women not having sex is cheaper and more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. Which would be true, except that you can’t make people stop having sex. No matter how many times you tell them that it’s bad. It doesn’t even work on impressionable teenagers. To convince you, I built you a map:

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How to build a map

Teakettle Junction, Death Valley NP

Once upon a time, I used to make my living making maps. Not making maps, really, using existing maps to collect data to build better maps. We collected data on the plant communities across national parks, to build vegetation maps that can be used to protect endangered plants, preserve critical habitat for animals, study the effects of climate change, and basically provide a baseline for any kind of ecological research that might be done in the park. I’ve worked on these projects at Denali, Lake Mead, Death Valley, and Mojave National Preserve. The process, at all of them, is pretty similar, although the temperature, scenery, and flora certainly varied. Here’s the story of how my crew mapped the plants across Death Valley National Park.

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