Guest blogger and editor/host of The Lancet News podcast Mario gives us his review of this week’s HIV related news stories…

Condoms can prevent cancer!

HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis: these are the sort of diseases that spring to mind when you think of sexually transmitted diseases.

But human papillomavirus (HPV) is also a big problem, especially in China, where the number of infections has shot up in young women.

In the 1980s, less that 5% of women in China were infected with HPV, now that proportion is reaching 30%.

This means that more women are at risk of cervical cancer. HPV causes more that 90% of cervical cancers.

This increase in HPV infections in China is thought to be due to earlier sexual activity and lack of awareness.

Earlier sexual encounters can double the risk of cervical cancer. This is because the infection can be caught earlier, giving the virus more time to cause damage, which could eventually develop into cancer.

No cure for HPV exists, but two vaccines (Cevarix and Gardasil) are available, which are effective in preventing cervical cancer, especially in women younger than 25 years of age.

Think of it this way, next time you strap up, not only will you be preventing sexually transmitted infections, but you’ll be preventing sexually transmitted cancer!

Infrequent condom use in Uganda

“No glove, no love”, as the saying goes. But in Uganda, young and sexually active people are having more risky sex, despite rising HIV rates and fear of unplanned pregnancy.

Only 36% of women and 53% of men aged 20 to 24 years used a condom during sex in the past 12 months.

According to the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey, HIV prevalence has increased from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% in 2011.

In response to this finding government officials are calling for greater focus on condom use among young people, which contrasts with the previous ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, correct and consistent use of Condoms) approach used in the country.

Morning-after pill available in New York schools

New York City has embarked on a bold new pilot programme to make the morning-after pill available to girls as young as 14 years-old in more than 50 high schools.

In the USA, girls aged 17 or older can buy this pill over-the-counter, but those 16 or younger have to have a prescription.

More than 7000 girls aged 17 or younger get pregnant in New York City and most of these pregnancies are unplanned.

Some parents aren’t happy about the fact that their children can get this drug without their knowledge.

But emergency contraceptives not only give people the choice to avoid unwanted, unplanned, and potentially dangerous pregnancies, but they also help people cope with the psychological distress that might result from unprotected sex.

Should the morning-after pill be more widely available girls younger than 16 years of age?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author.

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