While doing a random google search of three words in this order: young black women, I discovered a handful of other websites preceding this blog. The first website was the Young Black Women’s Society Inc. The next few were about a report on HPV infection lasting longer in young black women compared to other women (code for white), followed by an article titled “Michelle Obama gives hope to young black women” and finally, our beloved YoungBW Determined to Live Well blog. I sincerely feel that there has been a sliver of improvement if the first few websites on young black women did not immediately display a plethora of negative statistics. However, HPV is of particular concern to me as I am all too aware of just how it (including other STDs) flies under the radar when it comes to black women’s health. AIDS is a big concern, though I would vouch we do not hear enough about this, but HPV is subliminally deemed less important because, low and behold, there is a vaccine that proposes immunity to the virus if taken at an early stage of adolescence, and the perception that annual pap smears are a sufficient form of preventative care for cervical cancer, which originates from HPV.
I am not aware of any changes regarding the vaccination being covered by a majority of insurance providers. I do know when I first heard about Gardisil, it was extremely expensive to take one out of the three required shots to complete the vaccination. Though I will not advocate against taking the vaccination (to each their own), I will encourage young black women to research as much as possible before introducing anything into their bodies. I say this not out of distrust for modern day medicine, but instead, a desire to see women of all ages taking an active interest in what happens to their bodies. This means, what we expose our bodies to, is of great significance as it could very well determine our prospects for a long and productive life in the future. Ask as many questions as possible regarding ingredients, research studies done to test the vaccine and their duration as well as the primary demographic from which the results of testing arose. What are the side effects and are there any that seem to affect black women on a more or less frequent basis? What are the effects of taking the vaccine if one is already infected with the virus and is their a preliminary test done to determine whether a patient has HPV before encouraging the vaccine being taken. There are many more things one could do to increase their knowledge about chemicals advertised to prevent prevalent viruses. Some of these questions I have asked gynecologists, and have been unpleasantly surprised to find out they don’t have answers. Again, this is not about scaring anyone. It is about self empowerment through the active acquisition of knowledge.
In keeping with our theme of taking care of our bodies, let us once again discuss the importance of taking extra precaution with our delicate flowers down south. Hey, as young black women, when you truly face the facts, no one is willing to take care of us better than ourselves ( and the QLL men and/or women in our lives already). Who we choose (and if you are not choosing, you may want to call that something else because it certainly is not intimacy, lovemaking, or what sex has the great potential to be) to have sex with is a decision that should be made after a substantial amount of vetting has taken place. Vetting, in my world, is inclusive of both a committed relationship involving exclusivity between myself and my partner, and knowing the most updated status on whether the individual has or had an STD. Who have you slept with in the past? Did you know their status before you slept with them? Were you comfortable enough to ask them to get tested before having sex with them? What was their response? Were they on the defensive about your inquiry? Would they twist your questions into an accusation of distrust? Think about it, a response to any of the former questions could be the answer to whether or not this person is even worth another nanosecond of your time.
Getting back to the findings of that study, I do wonder what could be the cause of young black women taking longer for the body to clear an HPV infection compared to white women? Could it be a result of having sex while infected with the virus, and being introduced to different strains? Though Gardisil covers 4 different strains of HPV, there are more identified strains of the virus that the vaccine does not protect against. A lack of knowledge about how the virus is transferred from partner to partner (HPV can be transferred by skin to skin contact with or without a condom and bodily fluids like semen and vaginal lubrication)? Could it have anything to do with the lifestyles of those women regarding the types of foods they consume, their frequency in exercising, their general self-esteem, their families and surroundings? A simple search on many diseases and infections for STDs and the like, do say that a healthy diet and lifestyle only serve to strengthen the body’s immune system. So many questions can be derived from this one finding alone. What do you think may be to blame for these results? I am not quick to believe it is just a biological thing though. Too many studies are quick to take this route and I am not having the usual okey-doke played on me with that one. This is however, my opinion and mine alone. Each of you are welcome to draw your own conclusions. What say you?