University Health Services (UHS) has launched the “Guard your Goods” campaign to raise awareness of human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection.
The mission of the campaign, which was developed in collaboration with Plan II senior Connor Hughes, is to educate and inform students not only about how common and serious HPV is, but also how preventable it is.
The campaign began with a research study conducted by Hughes for his senior thesis that showed low awareness and vaccination rates among UT students. UHS health education coordinator Susan Kirtz said awareness of the infection is relatively low, possibly because many cases go undetected and clear up without treatment. However, in other cases, HPV can cause genital warts or cancer.
One misconception the campaign hopes to dispel is that HPV is only a women’s disease. Although women are more likely to get cancer as a result of HPV, over 7,000 U.S. men also develop cancer as a result of the STI each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Petroleum engineering freshman John Trueblood said he has some knowledge about HPV because his mother, a doctor, encouraged him to be immunized for STIs, but the general population of college students may not possess the same knowledge.
“I think it’s really great to extend this campaign to a huge college campus where it can have a profound effect if people take it seriously,” Trueblood said.
The HPV immunization, Gardasil, is available at UHS in a three-shot series administered over the course of six months. Kirtz said the vaccine is not the only method to protect against HPV.
“Gardasil is a great way to guard against HPV, but another way to do that is to use condoms consistently and correctly,” Kirtz said.
The campaign, which will end on April 8, reaches out to students through tabling, informative talks at organization meetings, display of promotional materials around campus and a screening of the documentary “Someone You Love,” which follows families affected by HPV, hosted by the Tejas Club this evening.
Hughes said he encourages students to learn about HPV and the benefits of the vaccine and then talk to their friends about the issue.
“I personally have been affected by cancer, and I know a ton of my friends have been as well,” Hughes said. “This [campaign] is a very tangible way to fight that disease and to prevent cancer in a friend or a family member’s life.”