Sexual Health Round Up: Girls Not Getting all Three HPV Shots, Six-Year Old Suspended for “Sexual Harassment”

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Sexual Health Round Up: Girls Not Getting all Three HPV Shots, Six-Year Old Suspended for “Sexual Harassment”

Martha Kempner

In this week's sexual health round up: new research finds that only 38 percent of girls who start the HPV vaccine get all three shots; a new study finds that while the specific gene therapy tried did not impact HIV, the concept still shows promise; and a six-year-old is suspended from a Colorado elementary school for sexual harassment.   

Girls Not Getting All Three HPV Shots

The HPV vaccine has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years as public health professionals have urged parents to get both their daughters and sons vaccinated while politicians and pundits have tried to make it a hot button issue in the “culture wars.” Perhaps because it has been in the news so much, there has been an increase in the number of young women initiating the vaccine; however, a new study suggests that young women are not getting all three of the required doses. The vaccine is only known to be effective if all three doses are administered.

Researchers from the University of Texas analyzed data from nearly 272,000 privately insured females who had initiated the vaccine series. They found that between 2006 and 2009, the number of young women who got the first shot increased but the share of girls who got all three shots declined from about 50 percent in 2006 to just over 20 percent in 2009. Overall, only 38 percent of girls who started the vaccine got all three shots.  

Young women receiving the vaccination are supposed to get a second shot one month after the first and a third shot six months later. The study did not look at why young women or their parents did not finish the series but its possible parents might not be aware that three shots are necessary. The authors suggest that physicians need to do a better job reminding patients and their parents of the follow-up shots. Others have also noted that while Merck has an ongoing ad campaign for Gardasil the ads do not emphasize the fact that three shots are needed. 

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It’s too bad Michelle Bachman is out of the spotlight these days, maybe we could have her mention that the second and third shot turn your hair green or your eyeballs yellow. It’s not true but at least it would get the idea of the second and third shot in the news for a few days. 

Gene Therapy for HIV Shows Promise (Even Though I Didn’t Work) 

A new study in Science Translational Medicine is being touted as good news for the future of using gene therapy to treat HIV despite the fact that the actual therapy studied had little impact on the subjects. Between 1998 and 2002, researchers removed blood from 43 HIV-positive individuals, genetically modified it, and injected it back into their bodies.  The goal was to program T-cells to kill HIV.    

That did not happen. The therapy itself seems to have had no major impact on the HIV in the individuals’ blood. In fact, researchers say the treatment “may not have worked at all.” Yet they are hailing the trial as a success anyhow because up to 11 years later all of the patients are still healthy. This is good news in and of itself as similar gene therapy treatments have been found to cause leukemia. Moreover, 41 patients still had modified T cells in their bodies which showed that these cells could last for over a decade.

While it is still far off, scientist remain hopeful that they can create a gene therapy that could permanently replace the expensive and sometimes debilitating drug cocktails that HIV-positive individuals now take.

Six-Year-Old Suspended for Sexual Harassment 

We all know that many adults freak out when it comes to anything that involves kids and sex — they’ve been known to postpone sex education until after puberty (when it becomes a history lesson) and try to ban children’s books because the penguins are gay.  In this week’s installment of ridiculousness, a six-year-old boy in Colorado has been suspended from school for three days for singing the lyrics to the popular song “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. 

Apparently, he sang “I’m sexy and I know it,” to a classmate in the lunch line one too many times (he had been asked not to do it again). The school district told reporters that they could not comment on the case but “…pointed out that the school defines any unwanted sexual advance as harassment, there is no age limit.”

While I agree that the boy might deserve some punishment for not listening to the authority figure who told him to stop singing the song, I can’t believe that this qualifies as sexual harassment. First, I doubt he knows what the word sexy means. In fact, just the other day my daughter’s best friend used the word “sexy” at dinner and her mother and I tried to see if either of our girls (who are both nearly six) could define it for us. They could not. Moreover, I’m sure they, like this boy in Colorado, have no grasp on the concept of a sexual advance let alone an unwanted sexual advance. Singing the song to his classmate may have been unwanted but despite the lyrics it wasn’t sexual.

The school would have been better off using this as an opportunity to explain why the lyrics are inappropriate. Not that this is an easy task. My friend and I had a bit of a hard time explaining “sexy” to our daughters. We settled on the idea that it was a grown-up word for attractive or pretty but that it wasn’t something you should say to or about a kid. They seemed satisfied with that.

The school won’t discuss the details of the case and we have no way of knowing if this young boy received a similar explanation along with his harsh punishment. I certainly hope so. I also hope the district is in the process of reconsidering its strict sexual harassment policy. While such policies are necessary to protect both students and staff they can’t be so uniformly applied as to hold a six-year-old student to the exact same standard as a 36-year-old employee for example.