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EYE ON HEALTH: STD film screening, discussion set for March 14 at LPHS

March 8, 2019
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Although the virus tends to go away on its own, for some people it can lead to cervical, throat, anal or penile cancer and possibly death.

As a preventative and informative measure to the virus, which currently infects about 79 million Americans, the Essex County Health Department's Public Health Unit will screen the documentary "Someone You Love: the HPV Epidemic" at the Lake Placid Middle-High School at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 14.

A discussion led by local health professionals will follow the screening.

The film follows five women who contracted HPV and how they and their families handle the life-changing virus. Audiences will see women go through chemotherapy and radiation treatment, HPV patients bounce back and recover, and, in some cases, families lose a loved one to the illness.

Director of Public Health Susan Lopez Allot said the county department has five main prevention goals for public health: prevent chronic diseases; promote healthy and safe environments; promote healthy women, infants and children; prevent drug and addiction, and prevent communicable diseases.

"I would say HPV falls into four of our five prevention goals." Allot said.

Allot said it's important to inform people about HPV because it's not often reported. Many cases go undetected.

"It's a serious issue nationwide," she said. "We have a list of communicable diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea. Those are the some of the STDs we have records for, HPV is hard to get an accurate count on. Also, there is prevention being the vaccine, and because the virus is cancer-causing and very serious, it's one of the STDs that New York state highlighted with this documentary and education campaigns throughout the counties."

There is no cure for HPV, but doctors can use cryo-, laser- and electrotherapy to treat symptoms such as warts. Allot said one of the best ways to prevent HPV is for women to get regular pap smears, which test for cervical cancer.

One of the speakers after the film is Danielle King, a nurse practitioner who works at the Planned Parenthood and Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. Allot is hoping the film and King will help people see Planned Parenthood as a place for all sexes.

King said a large percentage of the work her Planned Parenthood office does is screening for cervical cancer (pap smears); that and genital wart treatment.

"It's always important that people regardless of age have information," she said. "We're not trying to scare people but just make them more aware."

King also works with Dr. Adam Abodeely in the Adirondack Gastrointestinal & Colorectal Surgery office at AMC, where they conduct anal pap smears, a service not too common in the area, King said. An anal pap smear can also help detect HPV and early signs of cancer.

Vaccines are often a hot topic. Whether it's a religious matter or fear that a vaccine will have negative side-effects in the long run, some folks choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children.

King said initial skepticism toward the HPV vaccine, or Gardasil, was reasonable. Gardasil was created in 2006.

"When the vaccine first came out, there was concern about data on the long-term effects, which is understandable," she said.

However, King said after a few more years of research, Gardasil has a very low incident rate, meaning it doesn't often have serious negative side-effects.

Dr. Mara Mariani, a dentist in Lake Placid, will also speak after the screening.

"Many people don't see the connection between a dental health specialist and HPV, but certainly it does affect the throat for people who potentially are having oral sex and or spreading it from mouth to mouth," Allot said.

Allot said she's hoping for a younger crowd to attend the film screening.

"We're targeting ninth through 12th graders, health teachers, school nurses, physical education teachers or any school officials that a student might feel comfortable speaking with regarding this," she said. "We're certainly trying to get plenty of parents there because this is a vaccine that requires parental consent."

Lake Placid Central School District Superintendent Roger Catania said the documentary screening is a great opportunity to get the word out to students and families and encourage discussion of relevant health matters.

"We're always trying to aid in the well-being of our children in the broadest sense not just the academic one," he said.

For the past couple of years, the three-dose HPV vaccine has mainly been given to younger people. Patients ages 9 through 26 were the primary target for the vaccine, Allot said. However, in 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil to be administered to people between the ages of 7 and 45.

It's hard to say if HPV is on the rise in the U.S. because so many cases go unreported or clear up on their own, Allot.

"I'd say there's more awareness now," she said. "Fifty years ago, it could've been very well just as common, but we don't have the awareness we do now."



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