NYC Council Member Goes Public with 'High-Risk HPV' Diagnosis

Illustration for article titled NYC Council Member Goes Public with High-Risk HPV Diagnosis

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed on Twitter today that she's been diagnosed with "high-risk HPV," and needs to get a biopsy as soon as possible.

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HPV is an extremely common—yet still highly stigmatized—sexually-transmitted viral infection, which is linked to cervical cancer. (That's why you sometimes hear people refer to the HPV vaccine as a "cancer vaccine," and why the fight to vaccinate teenage girls before they become sexually active is so important.)

While it's certainly not Mark-Viverito's responsibility to use her own private life as a public teaching moment, her candor sends a powerful message.

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Via HuffPo:

In her announcement, Mark-Viverito said she hoped to raise awareness for women's health and destigmatize the infection.

The revelation was met with a wave of support from Twitter users who in return expressed gratitude for her decision to go public with the news and encourage others to prioritize vaccination.

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I cannot stress enough how important destigmatization is for the reproductive health of people of all genders. Thanks and best wishes for speedy, effective treatment to Mark-Viverito.

Image via Getty.

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DISCUSSION

When you go to the gynecologist, they perform a pap smear to look for abnormal cervical cells (cervical dysplasia) which may be a precursor to cervical cancer — these often caused by an infection with one of 3 HPV strains. It is rare that they test you for the actual virus. When you go to the doctor, they will probably not tell you what strain of HPV you have they will only tell you if you have abnormal cervical cells (or genital warts). If your doctor does not tell you you have HPV, that doesn't mean you are not infected.

When you are tested for STDs, your standard clean bill of health does not include a test for HPV. Chances are, if you're sexually active, you've been exposed to it, whether or not the doctor told you so. Congratulations, you're in excellent company. It's also treatable when caught early, that's why we get pap smears. We really need to work on the stigma around HPV - everyone from your mother down to your bus driver is possibly hosting the virus.

It is critically important that boys and girls get vaccinated. HPV is hugely common and there are dozens of strains. Your body fights most of them off, but the vaccine protects you against the known strains that cause cancer and cervical warts.

/spent all day fighting about the vaccine