You've probably seen the commercials. Over the last few months, it's been almost impossible not to see them. They parade endlessly across our screens—a multitude of women of all ages, from all backgrounds—and they all have the same urgent message to share: "Tell someone that human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer. Tell someone. Tell someone. Tell someone."

To which I can only respond, "We tried."

Lest you think me odd for talking to the television, let me add that I usually only do it in moments of extreme frustration. And the "Tell Someone" ads frustrate me because, for years now, friends and colleagues of mine have been trying to "tell someone," anyone, about the HPV-cervical cancer link. But no one wanted to listen.

Someone told me about HPV a few years ago when I was working at Family Research Council (FRC), a Christian public policy group in Washington, D.C. Friends and co-workers of mine there were lobbying for the addition of a warning about HPV to condom packages. Specifically, they wanted to warn people about the HPV-cancer link and the fact that condoms could not protect women against this dangerous virus.

All the way back at the turn of this century, FRC staffers Heather Farish (now Heather Cirmo) and Yvette Cantu (now Yvette Schneider) wrote in a thoroughly researched policy paper: "HPV has been linked to over 90 percent of all invasive cervical cancers, and is the number two cause of cancer deaths among women, after breast cancer. Approximately 16,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, and 5,000 women die annually from this disease." To back up their statistics, they cited such prestigious sources as The New England Journal of Medicine and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In short, ...

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'Tell Someone'? We Tried
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March 2007

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