January 1, 2015

What this blog is for, my biases and background, and why I heavily moderate comments.

What this blog is for:

My goal is to summarize current scientific studies regarding HPV, aggregate links to that information all in one place, counteract some of the misinformation spread in patient literature and on the internet, and offer feminist, patient-centered opinion and analysis about the information available.

My focus is on high-risk HPV--the kind that can cause cervical cancer. Not warts.

My biases:

I am a feminist. I am going to be extremely skeptical of any theory or study that starts from the assumption that women's bodies are defective, that older women's bodies are defective, that women's bodies are expendable, that women are not capable of making choices about their health, that information should be withheld from women "for their own good," or that men do not need to take responsibility for their role in their partners' sexual health.

I am also sex-positive, which means I'm going to be equally skeptical of theories and policies that stigmatize people with genital HPV, view disease as the just wages of premarital sex, or spread panic about an extremely common virus.

My background:

I'm not a research scientist or healthcare professional. I have taken several years of college chemistry classes, a semester or two of biology, and several statistics classes. I currently work as a researcher and writer in another field. I do not have academic library privileges, so most of the studies I summarize are publicly available. Might this have a distorting effect on what I say? Sure, and it's a distorting effect that the scientific community needs to consider when they choose to publish research in exorbitantly-expensive journals. Research of public benefit, paid for with public funds, should be available to the public. But that's a rant for another time.

I am a straight white woman in my early 40s. I live in a large west coast city in the US. I was most recently infected with high-risk HPV (HPV-31, -56, -66, and -83) in late 2011 by a now-ex long-term-supposedly-monogamous partner who repeatedly had unprotected sex with someone else while he was also having unprotected sex with me, and without telling either one of us. Although I've been tested for high-risk HPV regularly since 2003 and have always tested negative, I say I was "most recently" infected because high-risk HPV is common enough, and my sexual history is long enough, that the odds are I've had it before.

Why I heavily moderate comments:

In reading other blogs about HPV, Pap smears, and the HPV vaccine (Gardasil, Cervarix) I have observed that without moderation, comments sections tend to get taken over by anti-vaccine zealots, anti-Pap screening zealots, people hawking various proprietary natural remedies, etc. Since the whole point of this blog is to summarize research and serve as a counterpoint to some of the official and unofficial misinformation about HPV, it would be counterproductive to provide a forum for that crap. Unhappy with that level of censorship? Start your own blog. They're free. If you have questions, new information, or serious reflections on a post, feel free to comment or to email me. I may make your questions and comments the subject of a future post.

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