Curing a Disease that Wasn’t

July 17, 2006

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

A bright, bold sweater hangs from the thrift store rack.  Beautiful on the hanger, a telltale loose strand of yarn hangs from the hem just under the last bottom bright gold button.  At $5.00, the bargain tempts the unwary.

But for those who take time to look, inspecting the spot where the yarn dangles, a trail of empty loops signals a sweater coming undone.  One stitch at a time, six inches of hem have disappeared.  Scissors have snipped the evidence.  But a slow tug pulls another inch of knitted loops off the hem.

Like sweaters, stories can unravel.  Consider the recent development of a vaccine for the human papillomavirus virus.

Loudly heralded by many liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women, if you believe the pretty story they are knitting with haste, you might believe they have been on the frontlines of the battle to protect women from cervical cancer.

But the facts tell a different story. The facts speak to a long campaign of deceit promoted by pro-sex groups over the past ten years to pretend that there was no disease to cure that a little latex couldn’t prevent. Looking carefully at the edges where truth has been snipped, it is possible to tug at a loose fact and find a story just one second of truth away from unraveling.

Loose Thread No. One

The first word I heard of human papillomavirus (HPV) six years ago was at a meeting of abstinence educators.  HPV was one of over twenty five sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that abstinence educators were teaching in their medically accurate sex education classes.

Where was Planned Parenthood back then?  They were constructing a vicious and medically inaccurate campaign aimed at destruction of abstinence education.  What was Planned Parenthood saying about human papillomavirus (HPV) back then?  They called the mention of HPV a scare tactic of radical right-wing fanatics.

According to Planned Parenthood and NOW, HPV was just one of many sexual kill-joys that conservatives used to deprive adolescents of their “right” to express their “natural” sexual urges with wholesome activities such as oral sex with dental dams and outercourse.  Once infected and threatened with possible cervical cancer, the “cure” of choice promoted by these groups was a pap smear…a belated opportunity to tell a woman she has cancer caused by a politically conservative virus.

Loose Thread No. Two

Where was The National Organization for Women (NOW) back then when cervical cancer was killing more women annually than HIV?  Linking arms with Planned Parenthood for more medically inaccurate sound-bites, NOW decried the fear-based claims of conservative religious fanatics.  Cervical cancer killing women?  If so, NOW took no steps to alert women to the connection between HPV and cervical cancer.  Worse still, NOW put duct tape on the lips of anyone bold enough to mention HPV.

As recently as 2004, at their conference held in Las Vegas, NOW leadership rejected an opportunity to educate women about HPV.  Asked to support a resolution for Cervical Cancer Education, NOW leadership quickly pulled the resolution off the table and into the back room, where “privately,” the NOW Board promptly banished this call for an educational effort to tell women about HPV and its link to cervical cancer.

Loose Thread No. Three

The first time I heard condoms do not prevent infection from HPV was six years ago, a medically accurate fact taught by an abstinence educator.  The second, third, fourth, and fifth times I heard the medically accurate truths about condoms and their failure to provide anything at all like “safe sex” were at medical conferences hosted by agencies supporting abstinence education as a reasonable and necessary health response to the STD epidemic.

As far back as 2001, a comprehensive, medically accurate review of all research on condoms published by the National Institute of Health/Centers for Disease Control (NIH/CDC) revealed the paucity of evidence supporting condoms as “protection” against the many STDs of this epidemic.  The information in this report explains why one in five people today over the age of twelve is now infected with genital herpes.  It also explains why condoms do not prevent infections by HPV leading to cervical cancer.

Where were Planned Parenthood and NOW back then?  Putting more duct tape on their lips.  Wagging their fingers at the terrible, awful, big, bad conservatives who insisted on relating these medically accurate facts to the need for abstinence sex education programs.  Waiting for a cure for a disease they didn’t want to discuss.

And now…when there is a vaccine to prevent the disease that “doesn’t exist”…suddenly members of Planned Parenthood and NOW are willing to talk about HPV…the “conservative virus” that didn’t really matter…back then.

We’re all grateful for a vaccine that will prevent cervical cancer.  But some of us have been fighting the cause of women’s health and prevention of cervical cancer for the past ten years.  Others, sadly, have been carrying briefcases filled with duct tape.


July 11, 2005 –  Medically Accurate Cowards

April 2, 2004 – Sex Education: Spinning the Truth

See Archives for past editorials.