CHATpdx Peer Educator Original Creation


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The role of “men” in preventing HPV related cervical cancer!

(Photo Credit Gardasil)

This blog was originally posted on as a program of CHATpdx For more information check out: Our Facebook Page

In the US, it’s estimated that a majority (75%-80%) of men and women will be infected with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). With about 6 million new cases of genital HPV every year (there are over 30 genital HPV types) and a majority of these (about 74%) of them occurring in 15-24 year olds, the need for effective prevention programs directed to youth is crucial. The new HPV vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause a majority of cervical cancer and genital warts cases.  These vaccines, however, are only effective if they are taken BEFORE someone is infected with HPV. HPV often has no signs or symptoms and partners engaging in sex (or any other kind of genital contact) may be transmitting HPV without even knowing they have it. Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended HPV vaccination for girls 11-26 and have stated that Gardasil can also be given to boys ages 9-26. In women HPV can cause serious health problems including genital warts, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. These cancers can cause death or infertility in women. Men on the other hand usually only develop genital warts. While this is a small percentage of men that could develop HPV-related cancer of the anus or penis, it is much less common.

Subsequently, I believe that men have a pretty important role to play in the prevention of HPV. Likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly reduced if the vaccine is used. Unfortunately, it is too common for women (particularly women of color) to have barriers to screening services or accessing this vaccine because of the stigma around accessing sexual health services. This reality makes it even more important for men to seek the vaccine and to encourage the women in their lives (particularly the ones they are having sex with) to also receive the vaccine. I have encouraged many of the women in my life to get the vaccine whether or not they have been sexually active or think they are at risk. Men have the same responsibility to help prevent HPV even if they do not suffer the same consequences as women.  As allies, men can play an important role in helping to reduce HPV transmission. It’s time that men stand in solidarity with our friends, sisters and mothers by encouraging them to seek pap smears as part of a well-women’s annual checkup as well as the HPV vaccine.

(Photo Credit

Speaking of mothers, my own mama had such a hard time talking about her own health growing up. I remember her waiting for us to leave for school before she would call our neighbor to talk about a yeast infection she once had. This kind of taboo, to not even want to say the word “Vagina” like it was some sort of dirty word only reinforced my ideas as a kid that we weren’t supposed to talk about our bits and pieces. I was lucky to even get a pack of condoms on my nightstand when she thought I was having sex with a note that said “no seas guey” (don’t be dumb). Growing up in an undocumented Latino family we never dreamed of going to the hospital unless our arm had actually fallen off, yet alone to receive preventative care. Our fear of getting deported was much worse than the fear of cervical cancer. Growing up I’ve had to learn to talk about sex and sexual health in a way that resonates with my mother and with my siblings. At times it can be hard, but for the women in my family, I knew it would be the only way I could convince them to talk to a doctor and get the care they needed. They may roll their eyes or not want to talk about it, but I care about the health of the vaginas in my family, just like all men should care about the vaginas in theirs.

What do you see as the role of men and boys? How can you advocate for the health of women in your life?


Privilege? What’s that supposed to mean?

As a young white person involved in the activist community I have talked a lot about the word “privilege” and what it means. To me privilege is a word I use to describe unearned benefits given to me by societies and institutions and individuals that I interact with-in the United States. For instance, I am privileged in the fact that I am a white person.

How does that benefit me? In my experience I benefit from the fact that I can walk down the street at night without getting harassed by the police without probable cause. I am more likely to be “trusted” or given positions of authority in social groups as compared to people of color. People are more likely to listen, believe, and trust the information I present them than they are to do the same to a person of color presenting the same information. To learn more about how a person might have privilege from being white in this society, check out this article “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.

Why should I care? I feel it’s important for activists, youth, and anyone to recognize where they are oppressed and where they are privileged. It gives us a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. Recognizing our own privilege can open dialogue about the issues that affect all of us. If we don’t recognize and understand what’s wrong, how can we change it? By understanding how we are seen, we can start to see the world in a different light. Knowing who we are directly affects how we see the world around us.

I’ve noticed in myself, and others, that whenever someone brings up the subject of privilege there is a lot of automatic defensiveness, “I’m not privileged, I’m poor” is a common response. We all experience privilege and oppression in different ways. I’ve learned to see that when someone points out my privilege, it is not because they are trying to invalidate my oppression. Instead it’s because they are trying to help me understand some of the oppression that I help perpetuate out of ignorance to that particular oppression and experience. In order to fulfill my goals in making this world a more egalitarian place for people, I have created a list to better help me understand my privilege and my oppression. I encourage you all to make lists similar to this one:

My Privileges:

-I am a white person.

-I live in the country which I have unquestioned citizenship in.

-I am perceived as cisgender/as someone who is gender conforming.

-I am perceived as able-bodied.

-I am physically able-bodied.

-I am not addicted to any illegal substances.

-I have never contracted an STI.

-I am not currently homeless.

My Oppressions:

-I am queer identified.

-I am gender-queer.

-I am and have always been well below the federal poverty level.

-I have a mental illness or disability called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

-I have been physically, mentally, and sexually abused.

-I am perceived as female and was born female at birth.

By making these kinds of lists we become more aware of how we perceive the world, where we come from and how our privilege shapes our understanding. We must acknowledge how we are similar to each other to begin to think more critically about things that we may not understand about each others identities. We do not need to feel bad that we have privilege because after all we all have at least a bit of it. Instead we can look for ways to use our privilege to make it easier for those without it.  Remember, privilege and oppression is not about who suffers more or who benefits more. It’s about understanding all the different ways in which institutions, individuals, and society at large keep us all from achieving our basic human rights. It’s to help us see what is keeping us from recognizing each other and being recognized as full human beings. Recognizing our privilege is a way of opening the doors to educating ourselves on what oppression we perpetuate against other people. I encourage you to help fight the oppression and make a Privileges/Oppressions list.