How Many U.S. Adults Have Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Mamiverse)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) (Mamiverse)

In answer to the headline, quite a few. In fact, the number might be higher than you think.

The answer: Almost 50% of U.S. adults have human papillomavirus (HPV).

In case you’re blissfully unaware, HPV is “the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).” The virus is most commonly transmitted during vaginal and anal sex. In worst cases, HPV can morph into genital warts and cause cancer.

A report published by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that 42%+ of U.S. adults ages 18-59 had genital HPV. Certain strains of the virus affected 25%+ of adult men and 20%+ of adult women. These strains caused 31K cases of cancer per year.

The report also found that 7%+ of U.S. adults had oral HPV, and 4% had HPV strains associated with mouth and throat cancers.

Rates of HPV broke down along demographic lines:

The highest rate, 33.7 percent, was found among non-Hispanic blacks; the lowest, 11.9 percent, among Asians. The prevalence of genital HPV infection was 21.6 percent among whites and 21.7 percent among Hispanics.

The study was the first of its kind to examine HPV in adults.

This study really drives home the need for HPV vaccination. Yet despite a push for getting adolescents vaccinated, the HPV vaccination rate remains stubbornly low: “Only 30-40% of teens who should be getting immunized receive the three-dose shot, and only 10% of men do.”

California Public Schools Will Now Require Teaching LGBT History

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1987 (The Washington Post)

Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, 1987 (The Washington Post)

California has long been one of the most progressive states in the union, fearlessly blazing a trail where other states dare not tread.

OK, maybe I’m biased because I live here.

But California is about to do something (else) no other state has done: require teaching LGBT history in public schools.

Granted, this isn’t a complete shock. Last year, the state voted to pass a new curriculum for history and social studies where children will learn about LGBT history at various points during K-12 schooling. Topics will range from learning about diverse families in elementary school to historical nuts-and-bolts in high school.

(Side note: A public forum was held in 2015 regarding the new curriculum. While there were disagreements over how some religious groups were portrayed, “no one protested the inclusion of the history of LGBT rights.” Progress!)

This measure comes after the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Act (FAIR) Education Act was passed in 2012. This act bolstered the inclusion of minority groups (including the LGBT community) in public education on history. The deadline to include this new information in textbooks was this year.

With California leading the way, I hope other states will follow suit in teaching inclusive history to their students.


The Teen Birth Rate Is Declining

Teenage girls with pregnancy test (Young Adults)

Teenage girls with pregnancy test (Young Adults)

When I was growing up in the ’90s, teenage pregnancy was just a fact. It was depicted in movies and on TV, and you probably knew at least one girl in your school who got pregnant.

But teenage pregnancy now seems so…dated. Times have changed. Having kids young and outside of wedlock isn’t a big deal anymore. And I feel like I’m not seeing teen pregnancies focused on so much anymore (granted, that might be because I’m no longer a teen myself).

There’s a good reason for this: the teen birth rate is decreasing.

According to the U.S Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health, the teenage birth rate in the U.S. has actually been decreasing for over 20 years. In 1991, there were 61.8 babies born for every 1k teenage girls. In 2014, there were 24.2 babies born for every 1K teenage girls. Quite a drop.

Even the year-over-year drops can be steep. The 2014 number is a 9% drop from 2013, where 26.5 babies were born to every 1K teenage girls. And the 2015 number of 22 babies per every 1K teenage girls is a 8% decrease from 2014.

For a longer-term view of how the teen birth rate has declined from the previous decade, CNN has the scoop:

Since 2007, the year-to-year decline in teen birth rates has been between 7% and 9%…The number of teens becoming moms has dropped by a total of 54% from 2007 to 2015.

That’s huge! We’ll see how small the number of teenage pregnancies eventually gets.


China’s Sex Ratio: How Skewed Is It?

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Late last year, China ended its one-child policy, where each family was only allowed to have…one child. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.) Though its rules have relaxed in recent years, this is the first time the practice has been officially abolished. (But we’ll see how long it takes for the policy to actually die down, data-wise.)

We’ve all heard about how skewed China’s sex ratios are; we’ve heard about how the country overwhelmingly favors male children to the detriment of an equal sex ratio. But what are the numbers behind this phenomenon?

Consulting firm Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. released data in 2010 that revealed that Chinese women bear .71 of female births during their lifetime. That year, men outnumbered women by 50M+. The birth rate at that time was 120 boys per 100 girls, which works out to a sex ratio of 1.2.

If you’re a visual learner, here’s what that ratio looks like, especially in context with other countries:

China's male births compared to other countries' male births ('Business Insider')

China’s male births compared to other countries’ male births (‘Business Insider’)

As Business Insider notes:

That means lots of single, possibly angry males. Hard to imagine anything good coming out of this.

The policy was made into law in 1979, and abolished in 2015. That’s 36 years. Thirty-sex years of selected sex-selection in favor of boys at the expense of girls. (Fun fact: Kim Kardashian West participated in this when she was trying to get pregnant with her now-son.)

Scary, right? We’ll see how the new policy helps attempt to reverse this long-running trend.


The Boy Scouts Will Allow Gay Scout Leaders

'Boy Scout Handbook,' 1962 (Envisioning the American Dream)

‘Boy Scout Handbook,’ 1962 (Envisioning the American Dream)

The Boy Scouts of America will soon undergo a momentous change: The organization will begin to allow gay adults to serve as troop leaders. This follows a sea change of public opinion, and several years of declining Boys Scouts membership. Nothing on paper has been been implemented yet, but the change is expected to be officially announced soon.

However, there is a catch: Troops backed by religious institutions will be able to deny troop leaders on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Boys Scouts are conscious that many members come from within religious folds, and feel those world views must be honored, respected and given a place at the table.

Here’s some context on how long it’s taken the organization to begin embracing gay participants: The Boy Scouts of America were founded in 1910. Gay troop members have been allowed within the organization only since 2013 (a mere two years ago!).

It’ll be interesting to me to see whether we’ll see an upsurge in gay leaders (either statistically or self-reported), and how long it will take to become noticeable. I’m also curious about how this will effect the Boy Scouts’ overall membership, since the organization will be seen as a (somewhat) more inclusive space. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if they began rebranding as such.)

Why Are Girls Entering Puberty Earlier?

Teen girl (Barnorama)

Teen girl (Barnorama)

It might seem like teenage girls are looking younger and younger each year, but there’s some truth to that. Researchers are finding that the age of onset puberty has been declining over the years, and girls are beginning to physically resemble grown women at younger ages.

A 2010 study put out by “Pediatrics,” the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) journal, followed a cohort of 1.2K+ girls between the ages of six and eight years of age from New York, Cincinnati and San Francisco. The study measured breast “budding,” normally the first physical step in female puberty. The results found that girls were beginning this stage around ages seven or eight, which is earlier than girls who were born only 10 years ago. (Incidentally, there was no change in age of first menstruation.)

This is even earlier than what was found in a previous AAP study completed in 1997. That year, results showed that girls began puberty between eight and nine years of age.

So what’s been causing the change? There appears to be a link between sugary drinks and early onset puberty for girls. The study defined early puberty as age of first menstruation, but not by breast budding.

It appears more research is needed, but this is an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

How Has Colorado’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Dropped 40% Within 4 Years?

IUD (NY Mag)

IUD (NY Mag)

Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate has been getting some attention recently. But it’s not for the reason you think; it’s actually for the opposite reason.

From 2009 to 2013, Colorado reported a 40% decrease in teenage pregnancies, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Below is a graph that shows the decline:

Colorado's Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

Colorado’s Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

That seems insane, right? But there’s actually an interesting reason behind it.

In 2008, an anonymous donor (later revealed to be the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Warren Buffett’s late wife) gave a $23 gift to be parceled out over five years. The gift was to be used for “long-term contraception” for low-income teens and women. Over 30K intrauterine devices (IUDs) were purchased and implemented. This measure was rolled out in 68 clinics, as part of Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative.

The IUDs were found to be a very significant factor in the state’s teen pregnancy decline. The study released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that “the percentage of young women receiving IUDs and implants quadrupled in participating clinics,” and, in a complementary effect, the women receiving IUDs accounted for 75% of the state’s overall teen birth rate decline.

On a national scale, Colorado rose from having the “29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th.” This is significant as seven in 10 teen pregnancies in the state are unplanned.

The program expires this summer, and it’s unclear whether it will be renewed. But the numbers definitely speak for themselves in terms of effectiveness.



Pregnant Girls Banned from Sierra Leone Schools

Pregnant Sierra Leone woman (The Fatou Blog)

Pregnant Sierra Leone woman (The Fatou Blog)

Schools in Sierra Leone closed during the Ebola epidemic are scheduled to re-open today, welcoming children eager to learn again. But the country’s Minister of Education Minkailu Bah has banned one group from returning: pregnant teen girls, claiming they’re a distraction to their peers and would hinder learning.

Incidentally, this ban isn’t new, having been in place since 2010. But it’s making headlines now.

Whether or not this qualifies as a “distraction” is another debate entirely, but teenage pregnancies within the country are becoming more common. A recent long-term study by the UNESCO HIV and Health Education Clearing House found that 33%+ of all Sierran Leonian pregnancies involve teen girls, and nearly 40%+ are involved in a “maternal death.” For context relative to the size of the country’s population, 41% of Sierra Leone citizens are under age 18. Those are some scary stats.

Sierra Leone isn’t the only country battling this issue. As a whole, Africa has the highest rates of teenage pregnancies, taking 18 of the top 20 spots in a 2013 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) rankings report.

The recent teenage pregnancy epidemic has been attributed to Ebola, in that girls who might otherwise be attending school are now more vulnerable to sexual violence. They may also have to survive and provide, and do so via prostitution. So there might be a bit of a substitution effect at play here.

But human rights governing bodies have taken note of Bah’s stance. The United Nations issued a statement in which stated that “education is a fundamental human right that Sierra Leone has committed itself to uphold.” The UN also reminded the country of its own Education Act, passed in 2004, which barred discrimination of those seeking education.

We’ll see how Bah’s proposed idea pans out. But the words of UNFPA’s Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin ring true here:

Adolescent pregnancy is intertwined with issues of human rights. A pregnant girl who is pressured or forced to leave school, for example, is denied her right to education.

Trans Teen Jazz Jennings is the New Face of Clean & Clear

Trans teen activist Jazz Jennings (The Mary Sue)

Trans teen activist Jazz Jennings (The Mary Sue)

2015 continues to be a big year for the trans community as they make strides towards heightened visibility. Now, the community can add one more mainstream accomplishment: teen models.

Fourteen-year-old Jazz Jennings was named the new face of skincare line Clear & Clear last week. She’ll be fronting their “See the Real Me” promotional campaign, and tells her personal story in a video in an effort to encourage others to share their stories via social media.

Assigned male at birth, Jennings is the first trans model to represent the brand.

Jennings had already made a splash 10 years ago, when she became the youngest-known person diagnosed with gender dysmorphia. As she’s grown up, she’s been very active in advocating for LGBT rights, specifically for teens. Jennings has also written a book “I Am Jazz” detailing her story, and she was named to “Time”‘s Most Influential Teens List in 2014.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from Jennings as she grows up and continues to accomplish great things. And we won’t have to wait long: Cable channel TLC will air a docuseries on her titled “All That Jazz.”



Leelah Alcorn Suicide: Transgender Teen Suicide Stats

Leelah Alcorn (Yahoo News)

Leelah Alcorn (Yahoo News)

Leelah Alcorn was a 17-year-old transgender teen who committed suicide Dec. 28 of this past year. Born a boy named Joseph, she came out to her parents as transgender at 14 years old, and felt she was “a girl trapped in a boy’s body” since the age of four.

Alcorn wrote a suicide note on her Tumblr, published after her death, that called for better dialogue surrounding gender education and trans civil rights. She hoped her death (which could’ve been easily avoided) would spark a discussion and changes.

It’s pretty well-known that LGBT teens have a higher rate of suicides and suicide attempts than straight teens. According to The Trevor Project, LGBT youth (defined as ages 10-24) are “three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.”

For transgender teens, the numbers get more grim: The Youth Suicide Prevention Program cites national statistics that claim “more than 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.” There seems to be discrepancy here, as The Trevor Project notes that 25% of transgender teens have attempted suicide, and almost 50% have thought about it. Either way, that’s pretty scary.

Familial (and friends’) support plays a big role in all teens’ lives, but is particularly needed for transgender teens. The Trevor Project cites a stat which posits that LGB teens who have “highly rejecting families” are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. Though the site doesn’t include trans teens within this stat, it’s safe to say they probably face similar odds.

Leelah Alcorn’s death didn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t have happened at all. But I hope it begins the discussion she wanted and rightfully deserved.