• Melanie

"I had HPV and I'm NOT ashamed": busting the HPV myth

Updated: May 1, 2019

All you need to know about what HPV is, how it can affect your health, and how to protect yourself from it. But first, let me say this: yes, I had HPV and I’m not ashamed.

As a cervical cancer survivor, I wanted to understand what caused my cancer and how we can prevent it.

For a few years, I studied public health and got heavily involved in raising awareness about cervical cancer prevention. I also wanted to do my part to bring HPV vaccination to developing countries, so I joined efforts with The Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, a charity dedicated to eliminate cervical cancer in Australia and in developing countries.

90% of women who die from cervical cancer are those who have never had cervical screening.

When I found how preventable cervical cancer is through cervical screening and the HPV vaccination, I thought that’s awesome now we can eliminate cervical cancer.

Or, can we?

One thing I still couldn’t understand was:

why in countries like Australia, where we have a National Cervical Screening Program, do we have such a low rate of participation?

Then, it swept through me like a river. It's shame.

Shame damn shame

In the words of the electrifying Layla Martin:

Shame is the biggest force holding us back from our own greatness. The biggest force repressing the magnificence of our sexuality…

Over the years, I came to see that shame is what's stopping us from getting screened for cervical cancer, from seeking help once we have cervical cancer, and from talking to our doctor about our sexual health concerns after we've had gynaecological cancer.

Now, thanks to Layla - I also see that shame is what's stopping us from achieving our full potential in terms of our sexuality. Layla was my inspiration for starting this video series "I'm not ashamed". Check out her refreshingly honest video My STD story - I'm not ashamed.

Busting myths: 5 facts about HPV

  1. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.

  2. You can get HPV if you've only had one sexual partner.

  3. Both boys and girls can get vaccinated against the HPV virus.

  4. Even if you had the HPV vaccination, it's best to get your regular cervical screening.

  5. HPV can cause cervical and cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus or throat.

Most of the time, the HPV virus will go on its own but as mum used to say: prevention is better than cure" right? Talk to your doctor about getting regular cervical screening or about any concerns you have "down there". For more information about HPV, check out this brilliant HPV Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

You can help break the silence on gynaecological cancers by sharing your story either via email or by joining the Girls Rocking Cancer community on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtags #imnotashamed #girlsrockingcancer.



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