Canada Leads the World in Educating and Raising Awareness of HPV

The Federation of Medical Women of Canada Welcomes HPV Prevention Week

October 1, 2017 marks the first day of the inaugural HPV Prevention Week 2017, which runs until Saturday October 7. The Federation of Medical Women of Canada was instrumental in establishing the week, and in particular, the Federation wants to recognize the dedicated efforts of Dr. Vivien Brown, who has worked tirelessly for HPV awareness and in support of HPV immunization for all Canadians.

The goal of this inaugural HPV Prevention Week is to educate Canadians about HPV. We want Canadians to join the conversation about HPV, immunization and preventable diseases. HPV is linked to six different types of cancer: oropharygneal, penile, anal, vaginal, cervical and vulvar, and these cancers are devastating.

Cancer is a terrible, and potentially deadly, disease, no matter who and how it strikes, but cancers caused by HPV, particularly cervical cancer, are hard to detect until the disease has progressed significantly. That’s why screening is an important part of the disease prevention process and why immunization is so important in halting the spread of these diseases.

The FMWC wants people to know that HPV-related cancers are preventable with immunization.

Cervical cancer, and the five other cancers linked to HPV can be prevented with HPV immunization. The best time to receive the vaccination is before sexual activity begins, which is why school-aged children are targeted. And although HPV vaccinations began with girls, HPV is not a female-only virus. Recent data shows that more than 3,500 Canadians - a third of them males – are diagnosed annually. That’s why boys are now getting the vaccination.

The FMWC would like to acknowledge the support of the Hon. Peter Kent, member of Parliament for Thornhill, and HPV-related cancer survivor, who offered comments in the House of Commons upon the announcement of HPV Prevention Week on May 30, 2017.

There is no upper age limit to receiving the HPV vaccine, and research has shown that those with previous exposure to HPV or with a history of HPV still benefit from HPV immunization. This is important for people who find themselves newly sexual active through choice or circumstance and who believe HPV is a young person’s problem. The discussion around HPV by necessity will touch upon safer sex practices to counter all sexually-transmitted diseases, and will include recommendations for testing and regular screening for cervical cancer.

The effort to immunize against HPV is a global effort, and countries all over the world have implemented immunization programs to protect their populations. Recently Ireland announced plans to step up their plans to immunize girls in response to a decrease in immunizations due to misinformation spread by anti-vax groups.

And Jamaica plans to introduce the vaccine and is encouraging parents to protect their daughters against HPV and cervical cancer by getting immunized.

Although the World Health Organization recommends both boys and girls be vaccinated, only Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States are among a handful of countries to offer the vaccination to both boys and girls. In the United Kingdom, data suggests that the number of men contracting HPV will be higher than women by 2020 unless boys are also immunized. The link between cancers of the throat, mouth, tongue, anal and penile cancers, with HPV and men suggests that immunizing only the girls will not provide the herd immunity necessary to keep the boys safe, as gay and bi-sexual men are also at risk for HPV infection.

Canada is the first country to dedicate a week to awareness raising and educational activities aimed at promoting HPV immunization as the first step in the fight against HPV infection and six types of cancer. The Federation of Medical Women of Canada has created a page where you can find links to resources and websites with other resources regarding HPV, what it is and how to fight it.

We encourage you to join in the campaign by sharing what you find on social media, through Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags: #CANADAvsHPV and #HPVPW17 for English resources and #CANADAvsVPH and #SDPVPH17.

Let’s stop the spread of HPV and end cervical cancer.