I saw an interesting commercial on television. Merck (the drug company) is educating the public on a dangerous disease called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). According to Merck, the CDC estimates 20 million people are infected. The virus’s potential consequences include genital warts and cervical cancer. The tone of the advertisement made it sound like HPV is a new phenomenon. We are encouraged to spread the word by the slogan “tell someone." They have launched a website by that name (www.tell-someone.com). Of course, this disease is not new and the chastity movement has been warning young people about it for years. Planned Parenthood suggests wearing a condom as a protective measure against HPV. However, since the virus is spread by genital skin contact, a condom will offer limited protection. Jason Evert of Catholic Answers tells a gruesome story of his friend who spread HPV to his wife, who then spread it to her unborn child. Their daughter was born with warts in her throat which had to be burned away with lasers. Not a pleasant thought.
Merck’s website spells out the risk of infection:
HPV is easily transmitted, so any exposure puts you at risk. In fact, it is estimated that many people get HPV within their first 2 to 3 years of becoming sexually active.
They recommend “limiting your sexual partners” and admit “it’s unknown how much protection from HPV condoms actually provide.” This is not exactly a call to abstinence, but it is a step in the right direction. Merck’s campaign is a good opportunity to spread the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. Tell someone about HPV, and tell them about chastity.