Venezuela broke its HPV vaccine promises, and there’s barely any sex ed. Experts say it’s a problem

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In eastern Venezuela, a group of 10 women and teenage girls visited a medical clinic to learn about free contraceptives. Some felt a bit nervous when the health worker taught them how to use birth control methods like condoms and pills, as well as an IUD.

During the session, they also talked about HPV, a common infection that can cause cervical cancer. Surprisingly, most of them hadn’t learned about HPV before, and none knew about HPV vaccines.

In Venezuela, the government hasn’t kept its promise to provide free HPV shots. Many public-school teachers also haven’t taught students about HPV. This puts the responsibility on parents, who often can’t afford the vaccines due to low wages.

HPV infections usually don’t show symptoms but can lead to serious health issues like cervical cancer. Unfortunately, there’s not enough information about HPV in Venezuela, so it’s hard to know how many people are affected.

Doctors in Venezuela believe the government’s data on HPV infections is inaccurate. They think more needs to be done to educate people about sexual health, including HPV and its risks.

Years ago, when oil prices were high, Venezuela could have introduced the HPV vaccine, but it didn’t. Even when there was talk of providing the vaccine, it never happened.

Now, private clinics sell the vaccine for a high price, making it unaffordable for most people. Many teachers also ignore the requirement to teach about HPV, either because of personal beliefs or because they need second jobs to make ends meet.

Parents like Adriana Yeguez worry about their children’s health and try to talk to them about HPV. But there are cultural taboos and misunderstandings that make it hard for some parents to accept the vaccine.

Experts say the HPV vaccine is safe and can prevent many cancers. They urge governments to provide the vaccine for free and for parents to get their children vaccinated. Early detection and treatment are crucial for preventing serious health problems caused by HPV.

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