Why should I go to the doctor if I feel well?
Why would I? To be touched and examined by some random guy or girl I don’t even know?
Going to the gynecologist isn’t a nice experience. There’s no simple way to deal with it: discomfort, fear, and pain are always good reasons to avoid an appointment that seems useless and tedious. However, this is one of the most important branches of medicine nowadays and it is crucial to your wellbeing. Through it, science and human intelligence merge to find treatments that lead people to be healthy through prevention and early diagnosis.
There’s no need to feel bad about going to the gynecologist at least once a year, much less when there’s a pandemic going on, which has less attention that HIV or diabetes and is affecting more than 80% of men and women around the world.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is really common nowadays. According to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, it’s the most common sexually transmitted disease around the world because it can be transmitted just by simple genital contact, without penetration or fluid exchange. It’s likely that most of the world’s population has had HPV at least once in their lives.
This virus has no cure or way to be avoided, except through a vaccine. In many Latin American countries, immunization is part of the mandatory vaccination scheme; nevertheless, governments and health institutions still face great difficulties to achieve full coverage on their population, especially on women.
Although it’s very likely to find an HPV carrier in everyday life, the real problem is the virus’ biological and evolutive diversity. It’s estimated that there are more than 120 strains of Human Papillomavirus, of which nearly 85% are temporary and harmless in an average immune system.
However, the real risk lies in the other 15%, especially in the silent strains, like the 16 and 18, responsible for 90% of the cases of cervical cancer. Other types, like 6 and 11, only produce alterations on the skin (like warts in the genital and anal areas) and can be treated with medical treatment.
That’s why we must stop being ashamed of going to the gynecologist and have constant routine check-ups. These must include HPV testing and Pap smears (cervix tests) to avoid future complications. Prevention also plays an important role: the use of condoms must be mandatory while having sex, mainly because men are silent carriers of different strains of HPV.
We are constantly told not to talk about our bodies and the processes we go through, making us feel ashamed of them. For example, did you know that in Nepal menstruation is considered impure and women have to engage in many shameful activities to hide it? Fortunately, there is people trying to leave these prejudices behind like The Man Who Decided to Menstruate to Understand Women.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Cover image by Jessica Janae