Monday, March 27, 2006

Will the Public Reap the Benefits of Scientific Research or Just Die Instead?

Check out this article in the NY Times today about a promising new combination of drugs that appears to prevent HIV infection in monkeys by prohibiting the virus from reproducing in the body. This is very exciting news and should further testing show the same results, an amazing discovery to slow the galloping pace of the pandemic. But my excitement faded as the specter of the New Yorker article loomed. It's the March 13 issue, about the Bush administration's refusal to allow scientific discoveries that could positively impact public health make a dent in their policymaking.

In case you didn't run out to the library to read this, the article opens with a seemingly much less controversial issue: the human papillomavirus or HPV. There are many strains of HPV, but most people are familiar with the strains that cause genital warts, a very common STD. In fact, statistics indicate that 3 out of 4 Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 will have been infected in their lifetime. That's 75% of adults in this country.

What you may not know is that two of the strains of HPV are the primary cause of cervical cancer, which is why the search for a vaccine has been so urgent and the creation of a vaccine by Merck so monumental. In order for the vaccine to be effective, however, girls would need to be vaccinated before becoming sexually active. Here's where we run into problems: this vaccination would force us to face that teens have sex before they are married and sometimes when they are really quite young.

In a typical head-in-the-sand move the Administration refuses to put their stamp on anything that appears to "condone" premarital sex and instead focus all their energies on abstinence-only education (works great! right up there with leeches and bleeding). Since conservatives consider HPV infection a marker of "promiscuity," anything that buffers the consequences of whorish behavior worthy of death premarital sex, they have spoken out against making this vaccine a requirement for school enrollment, as are vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella.

I'm going to take a wild leap and say that if the Administration is unwilling to protect schoolgirls from future cancers, they will probably also be unwilling to advocate for drugs that can save sodomites from the consequences of their behavior. Sigh. I'm going to stay tuned. The Professional Critic likes to be right, but also loves a surprise.

1 comment:

Hooliana said...

Wait, the New York Times, the New Yorker? What happened to People Magazine?