Sunshine and STIs, oh my!

Sunshine and STIs, oh my!

When I woke up yesterday morning the radio announcer was saying, "It's 6:04 and it's the last day of summer." Even in my dazed state, my heart sank. Not that I'm a sun worshipper (my skin is so pale that it repels the rays of the sun up until the very moment it begins to singe - there is no middle ground tan!) but the thought of winter's inevitable approach fills me with dread. Except for December, when a seasonal covering of white feels cheerfully festive, I'd be happy to skip from fall to spring.

Having said that, the temperature is supposed to hit 28 today (82 Fahrenheit) so it's not time to go digging out the snowshoes yet. Hell, it's still summer, despite the trees beginning to show off their autumn colours.

In other happy news, new Gardasil data shows that the HPV vaccine, which protects against four strains of human papillomavirus, also offers partial protection against 10 other strains. "The finding means that Gardasil provides at least partial protection to 90% of HPV strains that cause cervical cancer."

It's too early to celebrate the following just yet but researchers at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh have identified a possible vaccine target for chlamydia, the world's leading STI. Because chlamydia so often shows no symptoms "it can damage a woman's reproductive organs and cause irreversible damage, including infertility, before a woman ever recognizes a problem." Chlamydia can also result in male infertility and lead to Reiter's syndrome, a disorder that causes arthritis, urinary tract problems and eye infections. Obviously the development of a chlamydia vaccine would be widely celebrated, then.

But judging by the news here lately, our Catholic school boards may feel more conflicted about the matter. Toronto Catholic trustees approved the HPV vaccination program of eighth grade girls with a vote of 9-3 but elsewhere the gap has been narrower and the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board postponed the program pending further information from the Ministry of Health.

Huron Superior Trustee Regis O'Connor remarked that, "As a Catholic school board, we are very, very aware that this is a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease and that giving it means children are going to be promiscuous."

This statement flies in the face of STI transmission reality. You don't need to be "promiscuous" to pick up an STI. Following the Catholic school board's abstinence stance could still land you with a sexually transmitted infection on your wedding night. Also, 62% of the victims who reported being sexually assaulted in 1998 were under the age of 18 (Statistics Canada, Juristat, Vol. 19, No. 9) - how would they fit into the board's morality fears? In the dream world where some of the Catholic school board trustees apparently live, there is no sexual assault and virgins only marry other STI-free virgins but wouldn't we be better off protecting real life people from real life cervical cancer which will kill 150 Ontario women this year?

Hopefully most parents think so and see this as a good opportunity to ensure their child's health.

Finally, I'd like to include a scene from To Sir With Love, which doesn't have anything to do with the above but is guaranteed to put you in a shiny, happy Friday kind of mood if you aren't already.

Happy Friday! Happy fall!

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