What is HPV?
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection. HPV is responsible for the formation of genital warts and can cause cancer, particularly cancer of the cervix, vagina, anus, and vulva. Moving towards the eradication of HPV is important, especially when you consider the high rate of cervical cancer diagnoses in South Africa. In South Africa, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women. People who contract HPV are either symptomatic or non-symptomatic. This means that when a person contracts HPV, they may not even know, but they will become a carrier.
What is the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine effectively protects people from contracting HPV, and thereby adds an extra layer of protection against certain types of cancer. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26. In South Africa, the HPV vaccine is administered to all Grade 4 girls through the Department of Health’s School Health programme. It is free to obtain, and parents must consent to the administration of the vaccine. While vaccination is not mandatory in South Africa, and rather a voluntary process, the most important vaccinations are administered for free to all children.
How is the HPV vaccine administered?
You can get vaccinated against HPV for free through a public health facility, the School Health programme, or you can ask your private doctor to administer it. Check with your medical aid provider to see if they cover payment for it too. The HPV vaccine offered through the School Health Programme is a two-dose vaccination, meaning patients receive two rounds of it, usually four to six months apart.
How does the HPV vaccine help?
The HPV vaccine helps to prevent the development of certain types of cancers, and globally, the administration of the vaccine is showing great results. According to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy:
“...The team found that HPV 16 and HPV 18 decreased 83% in girls ages 13 to 19 and 66% in women ages 20 to 24 after 5 to 8 years of vaccination. They also saw a 54% reduction in three other HPV types (31, 33, and 45) in girls age 13 to 19.”
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