Govindaraju: Burden for HPV awareness falls on scientific community

Photo by Art Writ // Special to Western News

I have to admit I’m not surprised by Eric Davis’ findings. (“Research exposes major gaps in HPV vaccine knowledge,” Western News, March 19.) Like other Western students, I am aware of HPV. However, I’m embarrassed to confess I, too, do not know much about HPV-related cancers.

Unfortunately, this gap in HPV knowledge among students is not new. Even in 1999, only 37 per cent of surveyed American university students knew of HPV, despite its high prevalence among their peers.

So, why haven’t things improved?

As Davis mentioned, a lack of proper awareness is likely to blame. While a lot of HPV-related literature exists, often this information isn’t effectively disseminated into the public sphere. Unfortunately, as we saw with the recent anti-vaccination debacle, we instead see misinformed individuals fostering a fear of vaccinations by spreading false information.

If we wish individuals become properly informed about HPV, and take necessary steps to protect their health, I do believe the scientific community has a responsibility to make information more accessible to the public. In that regard, I commend students like Davis who are motivated to educate the public and spread HPV-related information using avenues like the media.

Through continued efforts of this kind, I believe we could improve the current state of HPV awareness.

Melissa Govindaraju
Biology IV