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.”

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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.