And what we can do to prevent this
Some may think that all sexually transmitted diseases (STI) such as human papillomavirus (HPV) is only applicable among the adult population, but the medical experts are saying otherwise.
At the recently held Guard Against HPV press conference last May 19, 2021, medical doctors reveals that even babies are prone to having this disease.
What is HPV?
HPV is a virus that may lead to different diseases including genital warts and cancer. A 2019 study published in the online journal “Infectious Disease and Cancer” says that genital warts have an overall prevalence of almost 3 percent for Filipino men and women, with a higher prevalence among men.
It is related to cancers, such as cervical cancer. According to a 2019 study by the HPV Information Centre, about 7,190 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually in the Philippines, taking almost 4,088 lives annually.
“In 2018, there are 14 million HPV infection and mostly are among late teens and early 20s,” says family medicine and venereology specialist, Dr. Jovanni R. Templonuevo. “Youth nowadays including those in high school and college are prone to having this disease.”
HPV: Babies and the youth
But the alarming reality is, according to Dr. Portia Charisma Ruth A. Ortiz, president of the Philippine Society of Venereology even babies can get this disease.
“How young? Unfortunately as young as two months or as young as first born,” she tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. She also says that HPV may not be hereditary, but if the mother who has genital warts or HPV will give birth in a natural way, the newborn baby could be exposed or could have a close contact to mother’s skin where the disease is present, then newborn will be infected.
On top of this, she also raised the fact that there are lots of babies that are being abused, exposing them even further to this deadly disease. “Unfortunately, maraming tayong bata sexually abused by their guardian, even parents or kasama sa bahay (ther are lots of babies and youth that are sexually abused by their guardian, parents, or those are living with them),” she says. “In a public hospital, I see as young as two months with anal warts, with genital warts or not only HPV infection but other STI infection.”
She says that this pandemic brought this children into more vulnerable state as they are trap in their homes with their abusers. “Right now during the pandemic, I’ve seen around 10 [cases] below 18 years old that has genital warts,” she continues. “Unfortunately the incident is very high right now because of the pandemic and people are sexually active.”
For parents who are thinking how they can protect their kids against STI in the future, there are vaccines available that children as young as nine years old can get.
“We all have a role to play in the fight against HPV,” Dr. Mary Ann Galang-Escalona, country Medical Lead of MSD in the Philippines says. “As parents, we need to guide our children properly so they know how to be responsible for their health. As spouses and partners, we need to keep ourselves armed with the right information on how we can keep ourselves at the peak of our health, how to avoid infections, and how to prevent spreading diseases. This way, we give each other a chance to thrive without worrying about disease.”
To get the vaccine, these three doctors encouraged parents to ask their family doctor to get medical advice on how to procure this vaccine.