Representative Michele Bachmann, who may be the Republican candidate in 2012, has been quoted as saying that the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is "dangerous." Meanwhile, her husband runs a religious clinic that tries to turn gays "straight." It turns out that pediatricians in Appalachia are less likely than doctors in other areas to encourage parents to have their children receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, despite studies showing that Appalachian women are more likely to get cervical cancer and to die from it than women living elsewhere. Could this be a religious bias borne out of a fear of encouraging sexual promiscuity in adolescent girls?

Researcher Janice Krieger says, "We found that pediatricians in Appalachia were less likely than others to think their patients were even susceptible to HPV. That’s a huge problem. If pediatricians in Appalachia don’t think HPV infection is an issue for their patients–when we know that it is–it is going to be difficult to convince women to get the HPV vaccine for themselves or their children.

"The fact that HPV is sexually transmitted makes it a difficult subject to bring up. Other studies have shown that is especially true in small towns and rural areas where parents may be concerned about community gossip. Pediatricians may be recommending the vaccine less often because they are worried about offending parents of their patients.”

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and will infect about half of sexually active people in the United States during their lifetimes. HPV causes about 70% of cervical cancer cases, which can be deadly, especially since the cancer has few symptoms in its early stages.

We do hope that the ominous end-of-the-world predictions about 2012 don’t refer to the arrival of junk science in the White House. We can’t know what will happen in the future, but sometimes a novel can tell you more than nonfiction, and Whitley Strieber’s novel "2012" is one of these. You can get it from the Whitley Strieber Collection, and it will come with an autographed bookplate that was designed by Whitley!

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