Thursday, September 19, 2002

Is Multiple Sclerosis Sexually Transmitted?

This article examines a recently published paper that makes that claim. There seems to be quite a bit of strong and harsh criticism of this theory. The article mentions the outbreaks of MS that occurred in the Faroe, Orkney and Shetland islands during World War II. Previously, I have seen the claim that allied forces bringing dogs to the islands might have been the transmission medium.

I don't have any strong feelings about this particular claim, but it is certainly the case that STDs are a big problem, and the focus on AIDS has tended to obscure the large number of other STDs that are causing serious problems for kids.

About ten years ago or so, I was working on my BA. One of my general education classes was a biology class. Professor Benko (an interesting character, a concentration camp survivor) mentioned the research that had just been published that showed that cervical cancer was apparently caused by a sexually transmitted virus called HPV. (To be more precise, some forms of HPV cause cervical cancer; the others cause painful recurring genital warts.)

Research done in the early twentieth century had found that Jewish women had much lower rates of cervical cancer than Gentile women. One of the guesses that came out of that work was that circumcision might reduce the risks of cervical cancer. Actually, it now appears that Jewish women at the time were much less likely to have had multiple sexual partners than Gentile women--and thus were at reduced risk of exposure to HPV.

Professor Benko then said that as a woman's number of sexual partners rose above three, her risk of cervical cancer rose quite dramatically. You could hear the gasp from the gals in the class. (It is, after all, a sign of liberation, to have lots and lots of different sexual partners. You knew that. Why should girls act differently from drunken irresponsible frat boys?)

Anyway, the HPV problem is serious. I am hearing from college kids of a disturbing number of their peers who have already had hysterectomies because of cervical cancer. A whole culture has grown up in which lots of girls (notwomen) are sexually active, with multiple partners, by 14 or 15. Lots of them aren't getting annual Pap smears (which detect precancerous growths on the cervix). I guess it's not surprising that some of these young women are already having surgery in their 20s. It makes you wonder what it is going to be like in another ten years.

Condoms aren't completely effective at preventing the spread of HPV, though they apparently help. Men usually show no symptoms; they just pass it on from woman to woman. Try here and here and here and here for information.

So why aren't you hearing anything about this serious problem?

1. The losers are heterosexual women--who are of no value to the mass media.

2. It might suggest that both men and women should regard multiple sexual partners as a dangerous thing, and wouldn't that sound reactionary and narrowminded?

3. It would suggest that self-control ("a greatly overrated quality," to quote a political science professor at Sonoma State University) has survival value, and we all know how the left feels about self-control.

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