Archive for the ‘HPV’ Category

Far too many Latinas suffer and die from cervical cancer—in fact, Latinas are diagnosed with this deadly disease at a rate 40% higher than their white counterparts. But there is hope: with adequate access to quality preventive care and treatment, we can end cervical cancer and it’s harmful impact on our communities. At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we advocate for polices that will lower Latinas’ incidence of cervical cancer and share educational resources and action kits so that Latinas can raise awareness about and prevent cervical cancer in their families, in their communities and for themselves.

We’re about to get some real help. With the implementation of the new health reform law, and thanks to the work of Congress and the Obama administration, Latinas across the US will soon have even more tools in the fight to end cervical cancer. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or just “ACA,” new insurance plans will cover a number of services aimed to prevent cervical cancer at no additional cost to patients.

Starting on September 23, 2010, new health insurance plans began to cover the full cost (without co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance costs) of the following cervical health related services:

Additionally, while routine Pap tests (even after HPV vaccination) remain the most effective way to prevent or detect cancer at its earliest (and most treatable) stages, those who wish to boost their cervical cancer protection with one of the HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) may receive the vaccine at no additional cost, depending on your age.


Why is this change important to Latinas?

As we’ve pointed out before, Latinas have the highest rates of cervical cancer incidence and second highest rates of cervical cancer mortality. The incidence of cervical cancer among Latinas is almost twice that of white non-Latina women, and this health disparity increases along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of the many barriers Latinas face to preventing and treating cervical cancer, cost can be one of the hardest to overcome. This is especially true for the HPV vaccine, which can run an additional $390.00 (some reported paying $700.00) in co-pays.

Expanding access to services that promote cervical health will also benefit LGBTQ Latin@s including transmen, who face additional barriers to getting the care they need.

Coverage under the ACA is a hugely importance step that will get us closer to the day that NO one dies from cervical cancer, ever again.

For more information about cervical cancer, please visit NLIRH’s Cervical Cancer page.

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The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health recognizes the critical role community health centers (CHCs) play in delivering health care to Latin@ communities across the country.

And so does the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA): the health care reform law will provide $11 billion between 2011 and 2015 to support and expand operations of community health centers.

What exactly are Community Health Centers and how do they help our communities stay healthy?

Community health centers (CHCs) provide affordable, culturally-competent comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to low-income individuals living in medically underserved areas. In practice, this means that a community health center may be the only health care provider accessible to those in our community who most need care.

Community health centers receive specific federal funding to provide free or low-cost services, including reproductive health services like cancer screenings and contraception. Studies show that CHCs play a pivotal role in providing essential reproductive health care for low-income women, including prenatal care, mammograms and Pap tests. Community health centers provide care regardless of one’s ability to pay, immigration status, or primary language. They are often governed by a community board, whose membership is at least half composed of health center patients themselves and understand the community’s needs.

In 2010, approximately 1,100 federally-funded community health centers provided care to 19.5 million Americans. Latinos represent over one-third of all CHC patients and in 2009, 865,000 patients at these centers were migrant and seasonal farmworkers, many of them Latinas. In the new health reform law, $9.5 billion will go to create new CHCs in medically underserved areas as well as expand the types of health services provided at these centers. $1.5 billion will go to enhance infrastructure at existing community health centers.

Why is this funding so important for our community?

With millions of Americans living without health care insurance, there is a dire need for more community health centers to provide essential primary and preventive health care services. Among all racial and ethnic groups, Latinos have the highest health care uninsurance rates. We also know that Latinas disproportionately suffer from conditions and diseases such as cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS among others, so increasing the reach of CHCs will improve access to preventive health services and may begin to reduce health disparities. And finally, as undocumented immigrants and permanent residents who have had that status for five years or less will continue to be ineligible for Medicaid, community health centers will continue to play a unique role on providing quality care regardless of immigration status.

For more information about Community Health Centers,please check out NLIRH’s fact sheet, Medicaid and Community Health Centers Threatened with Funding Cuts: What is really at stake for Latinas and Immigrant Communities?

Photo Credit: Health Center Data: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Uniform Data System, 2009. National Data: U.S. Census Bureau, 2008 Current Population Reports. http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/08/increasing-access.html

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This week you have been reading many perspectives on “what will it take to end cervical cancer?” as part of NLIRH’s blog carnival, ¡Acábalo Ya! Working Together to End Cervical Cancer.

All of us here at the  National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) emphasize the importance of monitoring cervical cancer incidence rates because they serve as indicators of a community’s access to preventive health care services.

Why is this? Because no woman should be diagnosed, let alone die, of cervical cancer. For the first time, we have a comprehensive set of tools to prevent and fight the disease. Cervical cancer is highly preventable with regular Pap tests, the HPV test, and a provider’s monitoring and treatment of precancerous changes to the cells of a cervix. The HPV vaccines (both Gardasil® and Cervarix®) are also effective tools in the prevention of cervical cancer. Furthermore, the disease is also highly treatable when detected early.

Yet Latinas continue to have the highest incidence of cervical cancer among women of all ethnic/racial groups and the second highest mortality rate after African American women. In certain states, particularly along the southern border, Latinas have the highest incidence and mortality rates.

NLIRH recognizes and raises awareness of the myriad barriers Latinas face to preventing cervical cancer: lack of health insurance, stigmas around STIs and sexual health, cultural and linguistic barriers with health care systems and providers, the high cost of health care, fear associated to immigration status, racism and xenophobia.

Thus, while we serve to educate Latinas about the importance of gynecological health and demystify sexual health issues, we also will work year-round to bring down the barriers Latinas face in accessing health care.

This year, we will work to increase federal funding for Title X, the only federally funded family planning program, that provides cervical cancer screening and STI counseling to low-income women. We urge the federal government to support other programs that positively impact Latina health including Medicaid,  Community Health Center grants, funding for immunizations and school-based health programs. We will continue to advocate for access to health care for immigrants, for instance by urging Congress to lift the five-year ban for qualified legal immigrants from accessing means-tested benefits under Medicaid.

In 2012, there will be many opportunities to reduce health disparities and increase Latinas’ access to health services. Beyond January, we hope that our elected officials will not only speak about cervical cancer awareness, but work work us to ensure Latinas live cervical-cancer free.

For more information, please visit NLIRH’s resources on cervical cancer.

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Guest post  by Marisa Spalding, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Each January we celebrate Cervical Cancer Awareness month. This month gives us an opportunity to reflect on our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and friends that we have lost to this preventable disease, and a time to consider how we will get the cervical cancer incidence and death rate among women of color to zero. There is no better time to educate and empower women to protect themselves from cervical cancer and make their health a priority.

It is no secret that women of color—specifically Black and Latina women—are at greatest risk of cervical cancer.  Latina women have the highest incidence rate of cervical cancer and Black women have the highest death rate from the disease, which is almost two times greater than for White women. These staggering and unacceptable figures are only worsened by the knowledge that this disease is largely preventable through timely screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

Then what will it take to put an end cervical cancer? (more…)

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By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Read in Spanish

Everyone wants their family to be healthy. And a key component of this is ensuring that mothers, daughters, and sisters have access to the preventive services they need. When it comes to health, women are often the sole decision maker for their families and the trusted source in circles of friends – and they are also key consumers of health care.

Women have unique healthcare needs across their life span and have high rates of chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke.  Yet while women are more likely to need preventive health care services, they often have less ability to pay. Too often, the combination of women’s lower incomes and out-of-pocket health costs mean that women forgo necessary preventive services. But removing cost sharing requirements improves women’s access to important preventive services. In fact, one study found that the rate of women getting a mammogram went up as much as 9 percent when cost sharing was removed.

The Affordable Care Act helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring new health plans to cover recommended preventive services and by eliminating cost sharing, such as deductibles, copayments or co-insurance, for  many preventive services. The law also requires insurance companies to cover additional preventive health benefits for women.

For the first time ever, HHS is adopting a new comprehensive set of guidelines for women’s preventive services that builds on and fills the gaps in existing preventive services recommendations for women’s health.  Together, these guidelines will help ensure that women stay healthy at every stage of life.


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Today, the CDC published a rule that finalizes a set of criteria for evaluating whether vaccinations recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices should become automatic requirements for immigrants.

Starting December 14, 2009, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will no longer be a required vaccination for immigrant women and girls.

NAPAWF, NLIRH and CLRJ opposed the mandatory vaccination requirement when it took effect in July 2008, and worked together with national, state and local partners in the reproductive justice, women’s health, immigrant rights, medical and public health movements to remove the mandate. Organizations from around the country sent letters to the CDC opposing the rule and submitted comments in support of the proposed criteria. This was an important victory for the reproductive justice movement and showcased the power of cross-movement building strategies to secure reproductive justice and bodily autonomy for the most vulnerable women and girls.

Read the full press release here.

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Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Deputy Director for NLIRH, was mentioned in a recent TAP article about the HPV vaccine and immigrant women.

The piece covered a recent presentation given by Jessica at the Women, Action and the Media conference this past weekend.

The issue of HPV vaccination has been in the news again lately because of recent news that Merck (the company that manufactures the vaccine) is asking for it to be approved for use on boys as well.

For past coverage of the HPV vaccine at NVNV, go here, here and here.

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Dear Friends:

Please sign the petition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asking it to reverse the newly imposed Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination mandate for immigrant women and girls. To view and sign the petition, go to http://www.petitiononline.com/napawf/petition.html by COB Friday, February 13, 2009.

In response to the high number of individuals who wished to sign-on to the organizational sign-on letter to the CDC circulated last week, this petition was created to allow individuals to express their opposition to the mandate. The petition will serve as a follow-up to the organizational sign-on letter to the CDC that will be sent next week.

As you may know, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in 2007 recommended that Gardasil, the only FDA approved HPV vaccine, be administered to females ages 11 to 26 in the U.S. This recommendation became an automatic requirement for those applying for immigrant visas or adjustment to permanent residency status when the government updated its vaccination list in July 2008. U.S. citizens are currently not required to receive the vaccination, and yet it is mandatory for prospective immigrants. Although the HPV vaccine has been deemed safe and effective by the FDA, it is not designed to combat the types of infectious diseases that the immigration requirements are intended to address. Moreover, the vaccine is prohibitively expensive-costing a minimum of $360 to receive the three-dose vaccination in addition to over $1,000 in filing fees-making the mandate an undue financial burden for prospective immigrant women and their families.

Please join us in asking the CDC to retract its listing of HPV as a required vaccination for immigrants in the revised Technical Instructions to the Civil Surgeons for Vaccination Requirements, which would eliminate the directive for civil surgeons to administer the vaccine to immigrant females ages 11 to 26.

We urge you to sign on to this petition to put pressure on the CDC to correct this unfair and burdensome requirement on immigrants. To learn more, please contact Nancy Chung at nchung(AT)napawf.org.

The deadline for sign-ons is COB Friday, February 13, 2009.

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The New York Times, in an article on August 20, 2008, questioned drug companies’ push of the HPV vaccine. The article looks at the extensive marketing campaign and lobbying efforts taken on by the makers of the HPV vaccine. The article states that indeed, “in many states where cervical cancer legislation has been considered, there have been ties between drug makers and members of government.”


The cost of the vaccines and their accessibility to developing countries was also explored:

And why the sudden alarm in developed countries about cervical cancer, some experts ask. A major killer in the developing world, particularly Africa, where the vaccines are too expensive for use, cervical cancer is classified as very rare in the West because it is almost always preventable through regular Pap smears, which detect precancerous cells early enough for effective treatment. Indeed, because the vaccines prevent only 70 percent of cervical cancers, Pap smear screening must continue anyway.

One of the issues raised in the article is the unanswered question about how long the immunity will last.


Dr. Harper said that in the data from Merck’s clinical trials, which she helped conduct, the vaccine was no longer protective after just three years in some girls. “The immunity of Gardasil will not last — that is dangerous to assume,” she said.

The article brings to light many issues surrounding the vaccine. We at the Latina Institute think it is important for Latinas and their communities to have as much information as possible to make an informed decision about the HPV vaccine. Despite the U.S. being a developed country, the fact still remains that Latinas have the highest incident rate of cervical cancer amongst all groups of women and have the second highest mortality rate from cervical cancer. Knowing this fact, we as Latinas, owe it to ourselves and to our hermanas to take care of ourselves and each other, by getting yearly pap smears and fighting for those hermanas who may not have access to reproductive health care, and by getting as much information as possible about the HPV vaccine to make informed decisions. Cuídate. Ármate. Edúcate.

Contributed by Maria Elena Perez, Director of Community Mobilization

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This NYT article discusses people’s reactions to the HPV vaccine being made available for boys, which apparently might be approved as soon as 2009. Taking the angle of whether parents of boys would be willing to vaccinate their children to prevent the women with whom they will have sex from getting cervical cancer – the headline is Vaccinating Boys for Girls’ Sake – the article makes a few important oversights. 

First, the article comments only briefly on warts caused by HPV, and though they are addressed as a serious concern they seem only secondary to cervical cancer; while, understandably, cervical cancer is a more serious concern – in that it is life-threatening – warts are not trivial and their prevention should work as a major selling-point for this vaccine in boys.   Secondly, this article works mostly under the assumption that all boys are heterosexual.  What gets lost with this assumption are risk-factors that are far more threatening than warts, as HPV is a major risk factor in penile cancer and anal cancer – cancers most commonly seen in men who have sex with men. 

In trying to cover its political bases by obscuring the fact that Gardasil prevents HPV (a sexually transmitted infection) Merck might have marketed itself into an uncomfortable hole, as boys clearly have a personal stake in this too – regardless of their lack of a cervix, and even regardless of their altruistic feelings for them.

Contributed by Veronica Bayetti Flores

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