Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic Re-Cap

On Wednesday, January 27th the Public Health Student Association, EverThrive Illinois, and EverThrive Illinois Vaccination Initiative hosted a movie screening to honor Cervical Health Awareness month. The CoE in MCH wanted to re-cap this enlightening event in case you weren’t able to join us.

Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic is a documentary that shares the stories of five women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer. Each of the women share their unique struggles and triumphs with the disease and offer narratives through which the audience is able to understand the lived experience of individuals with cervical cancer. The film also does an excellent job weaving education about HPV and cervical cancer throughout the story leaving the audience more knowledgeable and informed.

HPV can be a somewhat confusing virus to understand. While the movie did an excellent job educating about the virus, unanswered questions still remained. Following the screening, there was a question and answer session with Dr. Rachel Caskey, MD; Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UIC. Audience members were provided a safe space to ask questions related to HPV and cervical cancer. Here are some important take-aways:

  1. HPV, or human papilloma virus, is a group of over 120 related viruses that are spread by skin to skin contact. Each group is classified as a given number based on the type of disease the type may cause.
  2. Men and women can contract and transmit HPV.
  3. While sexual intercourse is a very efficient mode of transmission for the virus, HPV can be transmitted by any skin to skin contact.
  4. HPV is a life course disease, meaning that men and women are at risk for the virus all throughout the course of their lives.
  5. It is estimated that about 80% of adults will contract at least one type of genital HPV by the time they are 50.
  6. Some types of HPV can lead to cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common, but HPV is also linked to anal, penile, head and neck cancers.
  7. HPV screenings and tests are available for women as a pap screening and HPV test.
  8. The HPV vaccine is available for males and females and is covered by all healthinsurance for individuals 9-26-years of age. The HPV vaccines targets the types of HPV most linked to cervical cancers. The vaccine is administered in three doses over a 6-month period.
  9. The HPV vaccine is most effective when delivered at a young age (about 11-12 years).

Dr. Caskey Answering HPV Questions HPV Event Audience Picture

On a local level, the fight for HPV vaccination is being strongly supported by EverThrive Illinois. For those who might not know about EverThrive Illinois, EverThrive was formerly known as the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of Illinois. EverThrive Illinois is a non profit located in Chicago that works to improve the health of women, children, and families over the lifespan through community engagement, partnerships, policy analysis, education, and advocacy. Their main areas of focus include child and adolescent health, maternal and infant mortality, healthy lifestyle, health reform, and of course immunization. I had the chance to connect with Kelly McKenna, Manager of EverThrive’s Immunization Initiative, to learn more about HPV immunization efforts in Chicago. Kelly shared that EverThrive’s Immunization Initiative is tackling immunization efforts from all directions. They participate in grassroots style outreach, offer technical assistance and training, provide both in person and webinar trainings for individuals involved in the medical field, analyze immunization policies to support and propose new policies, and coordinate stakeholder meetings to have conversations about how to advance vaccination efforts. Kelly considers EverThrive Illinois Immunization Initiative a small piece of a collaborative effort.

EverThrive in partnership with the Chicago Health Department and other key stakeholders were able to collaborate in the successful launching of a full scale HPV prevention campaign including marketing efforts, policy changes, and outreach efforts in the city of Chicago. Kelly shared that HPV immunization rates in the city have increased since the advocacy efforts took place. Kelly discussed that the success of the efforts here in Chicago are a motivator to enact similar efforts for the entire state. To make marketing as convenient, consistent, and as accurate as possible, EverThrive Illinois has made a free HPV marketing and outreach toolkit available on their website. Kelly said the most important thing EverThrive’s Immunization Initiative wants the public to know is that the HPV vaccination is a cancer vaccine and by increasing successful immunizations, we are reducing our population’s risk of getting cancer.

Cervical Cancer Prevention Sign

For more information about advocating for cervical health check out our earlier post: http://www.coeinmch.uic.edu/4-ways-to-celebrate-our-cervical-health-all-year-long/

To learn more, check out the following resources:

Photo/image credit & courtesy of Katelyn Talsma, Communications Coordinator at EverThrive Illinois and EverThrive Illinois Vaccination Initiative.

Written by Michelle Chavdar, Research Assistant and UIC MPH Candidate