HPV education gets a boost

A public health campaign will be aimed at informing Yukoners about the risks of the human papilloma virus or HPV, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced in Whitehorse yesterday.

A public health campaign will be aimed at informing Yukoners about the risks of the human papilloma virus or HPV, federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced in Whitehorse yesterday.

“In 2011, an estimated 1,300 women in Canada were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 350 could die of this disease,” said Aglukkaq.

The sexually-transmitted disease is estimated to cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

The campaign will aim to encourage young women to get vaccinations and regular pap tests, said Yukon Health Minister Doug Graham.

Other than this, few details are available about the campaign, which will be launched later this year.

Part of it will involve a territorial tour, staffed by an experienced community nurse and organized by the Arctic Institute of Community-Based Research.

Staff from the Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services, nurses, First Nation health workers and elders all sit on the project’s steering committee.

“I’m confident the steering committee will find ways that are creative to engage youth,” said Jody Butler-Walker, co-founder of the institute.

Ottawa is spending $264,412 on the project in the Yukon.

Territorial residents are more likely to contract HPV than Canada’s general population, said Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health.

The same holds with prevalence of other sexually-transmitted diseases. In the Yukon, chlamydia rates are nearly triple the national average.

That points to promiscuity and unprotected sex as causes.

Since 2009, the territory has administered HPV vaccines to young girls in schools, provided that parents have given permission. The immunization is free for females aged nine to 26.

Across Canada, HPV vaccinations have had far lower uptakes than immunizations for other, less-deadly diseases, such as varicella, meningitis and influenza.

This is partly due to parental concerns that the vaccination would encourage earlier sexual activity. And pap screening already exists.

Men are less susceptible to the virus. But yesterday, the federal government recommended that boys also receive the vaccination – the disease can also cause anal cancer in men.

It’s too early to say whether the government will pay for the vaccination of boys, said Aglukkaq.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com

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