HPV or human papillomavirus is very common. Almost all sexually active adults either have it, have had it, or will be infected with HPV at some point. Many people are not aware they are infected because most HPV infections have no symptoms and eventually resolve without treatment.

However, if not detected and treated, HPV can persist and progress to pre-cancer or cancer. HPV infection is a leading cause of cancer in Arkansas. The types of cancer associated with HPV (followed by the percentage of cancers caused by HPV) include cervical (91%), vulvar (69%), vaginal (75%), penile (63%), oropharyngeal (70%), anal (91%) and rectal (91%). Arkansas’ rate of HPV-associated cancers is higher than the national average.

An HPV vaccine is available but vaccination rates in Arkansas are lower than the national average. HPV vaccination is very effective – 81% of new HPV-associated cancer cases could be prevented. The 2016 National Immunization Survey for Teens shows that only 34.5 percent of Arkansas adolescents ages 13-17 are current for HPV vaccinations, compared to 43.4 percent nationally.

A strong provider recommendation to immunize is the most effective method to increase HPV vaccination. Would you like to learn more and increase your confidence in recommending HPV vaccination to parents for their children?]

Save Friday, May 1 to dial in for a virtual HPV Summit. Sponsored by the Arkansas Immunization Action Coalition and the Arkansas Cancer Coalition, the summit is targeted for medical and dental professionals.

Registration is now open for the virtual conference here. Deadline to register is Monday, April 20.

The summit has been approved for six hours of continuing education (CE) for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, dentists, and dental hygienists. The CE credit registration fee is $45; $25 for students. If you do not need CE credit, registration is $25. Summit organizers will be mailing summit materials so be sure your mailing address is correct when you register.

The Summit agenda will include:

9 a.m. – Jennifer Nkonga – how the national HPV Vaccination Roundtable works to prevent HPV-related cancers

10 a.m. – Jennifer Brown – the connection between HPV and oral cancer

11:10 a.m. – Kristin Zorn – the barriers for teen HPV vaccines

12:10 p.m. – Kim McClellan, a survivor, will discuss the disease on a personal level

1:15 p.m. – Robert Hopkins – HPV vaccination as a public health priority

2:15 p.m. – Katherine Knapp – St. Jude Children’s Hospital’s HPV cancer prevention initiative

In a Journal of the Arkansas Medical Society article published in December 2017, Jennifer Dillaha, MD and Dirk Haselow, MD, discussed the challenges that Arkansas faces regarding improved HPV vaccination rates.

“First, redirect the key message about HPV vaccination to focus on cancer prevention,” Dillaha and Haselow advise. “HPV infection is so ubiquitous that the previous focus on sexual transmission has not been helpful and may even be misleading, as people may assume that only promiscuous people are at risk. Second, place greater emphasis on vaccinating according to ACIP recommendations. Third, Arkansas parents should receive equally strong recommendations for all three adolescent vaccinations – Tdap, HPV and meningococcal. By addressing missed opportunities to provide HPV vaccinations, lives can be saved.”