Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GENERAL STUFF: Carcinogens

I don't know why I've been reading so much of lately, but they had an interesting article about the causation of cancer how quickly people freak out about minor things whilst ignoring major solutions.

The obsession with man-made toxins not only reflects a small-minded view of cancer's causes but hints at a worrisome theme in American public health. Our scattershot approach to preventing cancer subscribes to the cult of personal responsibility, albeit with a recent eco-friendly twist: To really help themselves, goes the thinking, people must simply take charge of their health and avoid cancer-causing, artificial products. Somewhat insidiously, we're starting to believe that cancer mostly is prevented by informing individuals to change their consumption habits—not by proactive, broad-based public-health measures like widespread vaccination or agricultural reform.

I've been following the HPV vaccine, Gardasil (also mentioned in the article), fairly closely, for a couple of reasons:

1) It is only the second vaccine that's been proven effective against an STD (the other one being the Hepatitis A/B vaccine -- we're still waiting on Herpes, HIV, and Hepatitis C, remember).

2) It helps treat a really important aspect of women's health, but...

3) It is being maligned and torn apart in the political arena because of the theory that it will encourage the onset of sexuality.

To my mind, this encourages the ongoing stupefication of the American populace. Same thing with the anti-condom campaigns. No, condoms do not protect against every STD and they do not protect 100% for the ones that they do help with -- but they are the best we have. No, Gardasil does not protect against every form of HPV, and not even against every form that can cause cervical cancer -- but it is the best we have. And rather than own up to the positive benefits they cause and accept them and educate people about them, we would rather cover them up and pretend sex doesn't exist... and not admit to the drastic public health efforts necessary to continue developing comprehensive sexual education that treats people as adults rather than foolish children.

I am 100% for a freer understanding of sexuality, and I like the BDSM's community's idea of sexuality being "Safe, Sane, and Consensual," but part of consent is owning up to your behavior and understanding fully the possible ramifications of your actions. If consent is simply limited to saying yes to fucking, then it's not truly consent. In no definition or use of the word "consent" in the modern world does consent imply a lack of understanding of the ultimate possible consequences of an action. Think about it -- if you enrolled in a medical study and they didn't tell you, "BTW, you may die from this," they are not properly allowing you to consent. Rather, they are withholding information to prevent you from fully understanding the situation you are putting yourself into.

By learning about sex at all -- and sex/sexuality is fully imbued into our culture in a way that is inextricable -- without the proper educational background, we are, in essence, handing people guns and hoping they don't figure out where the trigger is. And by not ignoring the public health ramifications of denial in favor of a few persons morality -- which, btw, no one is arguing should be trumped -- we are just crossing our fingers and hoping nothing bad happens.

When it comes to sex and when it comes to the public health mandates that we rely on certain bodies to perform -- the CDC and the FDA -- we should choose to do what most social work students are taught their first year -- unconditional positive regard.

In other words, we should assume that they are attempting to help the best they can without political motivations. If we choose to start sensationalizing or politicizing basic public health principles, then we are leading to a path where the minor -- cell phones=brain tumors -- become the only knowledge of health that we have, rather than pursuing comprehensive health in the form of funding things like universal mammograms for women over 50 (Ohio's state program to offer them for free for the most needy is constantly fighting for more money and we used to regularly get notice that "we have no more money, please stop enrolling people in this program"). Because though cell phones may be linked to brain tumors, it would be silly to say that not using them is the only thing we can do. It is not entirely the individual's fault for getting XYZ...

...sometimes we, as a society, fail those individuals.

(And besides, shouldn't we be sensationalizing more important things, like il Papa or the homosexual menace?)

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