Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Human Papilloma Virus - the case for a vaccination programme

Yesterday the Health Protection Agency announced new findings that at least 10% of young women have the human papillomavirus by the age of 16. HPV leads to increased risk of cervical cancer in women. We now have a vaccination for HPV which saves lives.

We urge government must urgently implement a vaccination programme for girls and boys before they become sexually active and ensure suffficient resource is available to do so. A key human resource is of course the school nurse, part of our workforce so badly affected by the NHS deficit and a service seriously underfunded.

Most times I speak to school nurses, they are compassionate, passionate about public health and desperate to do more, to have more opportunities to build genuine relationships with children and young people, rather than a snatched moment here and there as they rush from duty to duty, school to school. Dialogue about implementing a HPV vaccination programme will necessarily involve dialogue about how to ensure there are enough school nurses, with enough resource to do the job. And I sincerely hope the opportunity will be taken to ensure serious conversation about the wider role of the school nurse in promoting children and young people's public health as well.

Finally, a vaccination programme is not a universal panacea, it is only part of the solution. It must be backed up with proper education about sex and relationships, opportunties for children and young people to develop skills, hopes and aspirations and a change in culture so young people expect much from the relationships and sex they choose to have.

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