The HPV vaccine for men- is this a thing?

Yes, it is. You may have heard of the HPV or Gardasil vaccine for young women to prevent cervical cancer, but young men should get it too!

4 men studying and drinking coffee

The HPV vaccine is a series of 3 injections over a 6-month period. Ideally it should be given before a person ever has sex, but it is recommended for men from age 11 through 21 years regardless of sexual activity, and through age 26 years for men who have sex with men and men who are immunocompromised (including those who are HIV positive).

Why should men get vaccinated? Vaccination helps to:

  • Prevent genital warts
  • Prevent penile, throat, and anal cancers caused by HPV
  • Prevent spread of HPV to future partners

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).  The virus is spread through anal, vaginal, or oral sex, and can even be spread through close skin contact during sexual activity. A person doesn’t have to have signs and symptoms to spread the virus.

All sexually active people are at risk for HPV.

Almost all sexually active people get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Most people will clear the infection without more serious issues.  However, if an infection does not go away on its own, symptoms may develop months or even years later.

If HPV does not go away on its own, it can cause genital warts and some types of cancer.

Warning symptoms: new or unusual warts, growths, lumps, or sores on the penis, scrotum, anus, mouth, or throat.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps around the penis or anus. They may be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. The warts may stay the same or grow in size or number. They can come back even after treatment but warts caused by HPV do not lead to cancer.

HPV infection is not cancer, but it can change the body in ways that lead to cancer. Cervical cancer can occur in women, penile cancer in men, and anal cancer in both women and men. Cancer at the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharyngeal cancer), is also a concern for both men and women.  All of these cancers can be caused by HPV infections that do not go away.

three pie charts show types of HPV for men and women 

Figure: Average Number of New HPV-Associated Cancers Overall, and by Sex, in the United States from 2005-2009

HPV-related cancers are not common in men, but certain men are more susceptible:

  • Men with weak immune systems (including those with HIV) who get infected with HPV are more likely to have complications
  • Men who receive anal sex are more likely to get anal HPV and develop anal cancer

There is no approved test for HPV in men at this time, and there is no specific treatment. Genital warts can be treated by healthcare providers and HPV-related cancers are more treatable when diagnosed and treated early.

The HPV vaccine lowers the risk of getting HPV and HPV-related diseases.

 Using condoms for every sexual encounter lowers the chance of getting all STIs, including HPV.

 If nothing else, consider protecting your future sexual partner(s) from HPV by getting vaccinated!

The HPV vaccine is available at Campus Health Services.

For more information on HPV visit

How Being YOU Can Reduce Stress

I always joke with my coworkers that they have to watch what they say around me because I believe everything that I hear.  And, although I think it is important to draw on other people’s experiences to shape your own success, at the end of the day you are the only person who knows what is best for you.  As a follow up to last week’s stress-free blog, I’d like to leave you with four more tips focused on how being YOU can lead to a productive and carefree school year. Continue reading

Why I love “Y’all”

This post was originally written by Sarah Weller and published on June 23, 2011.

I am not southern. I was born far to close the Mason-Dixon to ever be considered southern, however, as a northern transplant to Chapel Hill, I’ve found myself adopting some southern tendencies (and I don’t just mean my obsession with Carolina BBQ and sweet tea). The longer I’ve been here the more I hear “y’all” edging into my day-to-day vocabulary… to my family, “Are y’all ready yet?” To my friends “Do y’all want to go to the store now or later?” At work, “Have y’all seen the stapler?”

At first it sounded a bit strange coming out of my mouth, but now I like it, especially as I think about why y’all really is a better way to address a group than the alternative, “you guys”. But “y’all,” which is the combination of the words you+all, is gender neutral. Think about it, saying “you guys” implies you’re talking to a bunch of men, it’s not really accurate if you’re addressing a mixed gender group, but y’all it’s all inclusive!

Just look at the multitude of uses of y’all found via the wiki site (that’s right, “y’all” has a wiki!)

  1. A replacement for the plural of you.
    • Example: “Y’all can use the internet at the same time!”
  2. An associative plural, including individuals associated but not present with the singular addressee.
    • Example: “Y’all can come over at around 10:30,” Stephanie says.
      • Stephanie explains to John that John and John’s friends, who are not present at the time, can come over at around 10:30. Stephanie is speaking to John, but treats John as a representative for others.
  3. An institutional plural addressed to one person representing a group.
    • Example: “Y’all sell the best candies, Mrs. Johnson.”
      • Y’all is received by Mrs. Johnson who is the representative of a small candy business.
  4. A form used in direct address in certain contexts (e.g., partings, greetings, invitations, and vocatives)
    • Example: “Hey, y’all!”
      • A greeting that addresses a multitude of people without referencing a singular identity comprising that multitude

Oh and who could forget, the classic… “Y’all come back now, ya hear!?”

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Sexual Health!! Read All About It!

There is a lot of information out there about sex, sexual health and pleasure. But how do you know which resources to trust? Wonder no more! Below is a list of resources that contain excellent, reputable information:

Go Ask Alice!

Go Ask Alice! is a great health resource that is maintained by health educators at Columbia University. The website is set up in a Q & A format and it covers a variety of health topics including emotional health, sexual health and relationships.

Sex Etc.

Sex Etc. is a great website hosted by Rutgers University. All the staff writers for the website are students so it is sex education for students, by students! The website is fun and interactive and once a week, the site hosts chats with a health educator so you can ask questions and get an accurate answers immediately.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been providing accurate sexual health information for a long time and they are still one of the best resources on the web. Their website has information on just about any sexual health topic you can think of including body image, gender and emergency contraception.

Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World

This website offers a lot of information about sexual health, but they also have a blog and “sexpert” advice. The website has also started building a database to connect young people to services like counselors and clinics. Check it out!

What’s Up with HeForShe and It’s On Us?

Recently, two large campaigns have been launched around the issue of violence prevention. The United Nations kicked off the HeforShe campaign, and the White Houses launched its own Its On Us initiative. These two projects are gaining a lot of print and social media buzz.

HeForShe is a UN-led global effort to engage men in violence prevention discourse and action. The project asks men to commit to the idea that “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.” (

UN Flag
“Flag of the United Nations” by dirc, Flickr Creative Commons
White House
“The White House” by Shubert Ciencia, Flickr Creative Commons








Its On Us is a White House-led nationwide campaign that focuses on reducing sexual violence on college campuses. The initiative asks people to pledge to “Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. And to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.” (

Both campaigns mentioned have used celebrity star power to push their messages forward. The UN brought in Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, and the White House has a long list of celebs including Kerry Washington, Jon Hamm, and President Obama himself. I hope this increased media attention will allow campaigns like these to bring a greater awareness, and a more active resistance, to all forms of violence.

“UN Women’s HeForShe Campaign Special Event” by UN Women, Flickr Creative Commons

Additionally, it is both refreshing and reassuring to see campaigns directly (HeForShe) and indirectly (Its On Us) challenge men to be accountable for the violent patriarchal society we live in. That being said, I hope they continue to push for men’s active participation in violence prevention, men’s active resistance to violent masculinity, and men’s active deconstruction of male privilege. The latter, privilege, is all too easy and convenient for men to forget.

Male privilege must be explored, re-explored, and actively resisted at both the individual and societal levels as we work toward true gender equity and violence prevention. Signing a pledge online is not good enough. Not even close. Those who identify toward the male-identified end of the gender spectrum, especially cisgender men, must be held accountable for the culture and society for which we have both greatly benefited from, and actively and passively constructed.

UN Women's Day 2014
“International Women’s Day 2014: Equality for women is progress for all” by UN Women, Flickr Creative Commons

Although these campaigns are certainly are not perfect and could benefit from constructive criticism and more direct engagement from leaders in the movement, I am encouraged and cautiously excited to see them  forming on such large and visible stages. That being said, as more men join this cause—which is fundamentally their responsibility—I hope we keep the conversation about privilege at the forefront. All too often men are over-praised and over-compensated for work they should have been doing in the first place and for work that women, and particularly women of color, have been doing for a long time without proper recognition.

A violence prevention movement with men engaged that does not actively resist and deconstruct male privilege is hollow and ineffective.

HeForShe and Its On Us are a step in a positive direction, but that does not mean we shouldn’t continue to challenge, build, and grow with them. Keeping the deconstruction of male privilege at the forefront is just one of several issues that should and already have been addressed. Some more issues include: How are these movements inclusive to the spectrum of genders outside of the false male-female binary? How are these movements acknowledging the tremendous and courageous work that has come before them? How are intersectionality and identity politics being infused into all of this anti-oppression work? And what about the male survivors of men’s violence—are their voices being heard and included?

UNC Men's Project Logo
UNC Men’s Project. Logo designed by Garrett Ivey.

Let’s continue the conversation and push for holistic, equitable, and authentic violence prevention. If you are a male-identified student and interested in these issues, consider applying to the UNC Men’s Project. The UNC Men’s Project is a campus-wide initiative to increase men’s involvement in gender equity and violence prevention through experiential learning, creative practice, and fellowship. You can find more information with the link below.

 Applications are available online at and are due by Midnight on Friday, October 3rd 

HPV and Men

Did you know that the CDC recommends that men get vaccinated against HPV (human papilloma virus)? It’s true! The CDC now recommends the HPV vaccine Gardasil for both men and women ages 9-26 years old.

Man, HPV is confusing. So true! My fellow Sexual Wellness Specialist (formerly CHECS) Diana has written a great blog entry about HPV. I want to reiterate that there are over 100 strains of HPV that are transmitted through skin/skin contact in the genital region. Some strains of HPV don’t do anything. Some cause genital warts. Some cause cancers. Gardasil vaccinates against four common strains: HPV-16 & HPV-18 (which cause most of the cancers) and HPV-6 & HPV-11 (which cause 90% of genital warts).

You probably noticed that Gardasil does not vaccinate against all strains of HPV. This means that Gardasil reduces risk of infection but cannot entirely prevent it. It’s still important to take other risk reduction steps, like using condoms and dental dams.

Also note that there is another HPV vaccine available for women, but not men, called Cervarix. It only vaccinates against HPV-16 & HPV-18 (which cause most of the cancers).

I thought HPV was a women’s health issue. Continue reading

Sexist Language

Hey you guys!  What’s wrong with this picture?

Have you guys guessed it yet?

If you guys haven’t figured it out yet, it’s actually not that surprising.  At least in American society it has become the cultural norm to refer to a mixed-gender group collectively as “guys” no matter how many female-identified individuals are in that crowd.  No one seems to be immune to this practice, not even myself.  Until a colleague brought it to my attention about a year ago, I never realized that I often addressed my graduate cohort of over 40 women and 5 men during presentations or discussions as “you guys.”

Since then, I’ve worked hard to remove this kind of language.  I’ve done this because, as UNC Professor Sherryl  Kleinman has written, “male-based generics are another indicator — and more importantly, a reinforcer— of a system in which “man” in the abstract and men in the flesh are privileged over women.”   Paying attention to this kind of seemingly innocuous language has also made me aware of other areas where we slip into the norm of male supremacy.  For instance, while discussing a case study in class the other day the entire group referred to the school principle as “he” and the teacher as “she” even though the case study did not actually specify the genders at all.

As a sexual health educator, I’ve also noticed how gendered language is reflected in and influenced by sexual norms.  Women are in charge of making sure they have a contraceptive method.  Men are in charge of having a condom and knowing how to properly use it.  These are just a few examples of the gendered norms that can keep individuals from fully expressing their sexuality, communicating with their partner, and enjoying their sex lives.

You might be thinking right now, why does it matter?  Who cares?  These are just words we use and they don’t mean anything.

It matters because language matters.  Many of us know this first hand as victims of derogatory words that are racist, classist, or sexist.  Even as I wrote this post I had to be mindful of using language that didn’t reinforce that there are only two genders (male or female) and might exclude individuals who identify outside of this binary, like the two-spirit people of some indigenous American groups.  For example I chose, ”it has become the cultural norm to refer to a mixed-gender group…”  instead of writing that “it has become the cultural norm to refer to a group of men and women…

So why don’t you try it on for size?  How easy or hard do you think it might be to stop using phrases like “you guys” or “man up” in your everyday language?  How do you think it might affect your friends, or the UNC community?

You won’t know unless you try!

To read Dr. Kleinman’s full article, check out

Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Studying abroad can be a hectic time.  School work, travel, learning a new language, and maybe an internship demand a lot of time.  For many students, new cities and experiences also change the way they view themselves and their lives.  With all of this in the mix, many may tell you that going abroad is bad for your romantic relationship at home.

However, it appears that relationships can last through a stint abroad. A study of 283 college students found that only 34% of students who had a significant other when they went abroad broke up while a partner was abroad or just after they returned home.   About 36% of those who broke up said that studying abroad did not really contribute to the breakup.

Being apart from a partner can bring additional stress into your life while you are abroad.  Poor communication while you are apart can lead to disagreements, and a lack of trust can strain the relationship.  Of course, when you are trying to make the most of a once in a lifetime opportunity, relationship problems are the last thing you want to think about.

Here are some tips for being in a romantic relationship while studying abroad:

Before You Go Abroad:  Talk with your partner about how and how often you want to keep in touch.  Will they come visit you?  Will you go visit them?  Phone, iChat, gChat, Skype, or  email?

Also, get an understanding about the state of your relationship.  Is your relationship completely committed or just sort of casual? Understanding what your partner thinks about your relationship can help both of you set boundaries for your behaviors while you are apart.

When You Are Apart: Take an interest in each others’  ‘routine’ and keep the other person updated on any thoughts or feelings that are going on.  If you are in a location where internet access is intermittent check out cheap ways to talk on the phone.  Some suggest setting up a joint blog where you can share your experiences with each other.

When You Get Back: Adjusting to life in The States when you return may be difficult or stressful.  These feelings may influence your relationship. Let your partner know what you are thinking/feeling.

Also, make sure that you spend time with your significant other when you get back.  During your time abroad you may have made new friends or developed new interests that you do not share with your partner.  These divergent interests can make spending time together a little harder.

Go Ask Alice also has great tips on coping with the stresses of long distance relationships.

Have a great trip!

Reference: Wielkiewicz, R.M. and Turkowski, L.W. (2010). Reentry Issues Upon Returning From Study Abroad Programs. Journal of College Student Development, 51(6), p. 649-664.

How To Have a Stress-Free School Year

I know what you’re thinking:  “I don’t need advice on a stress-free school year.  I have all my notebooks, matching pens and pencil case, post its and baby stapler with little baby staples all ready for my first week of class.  It’s all smooth sailing from here.”  But I would be willing to bet that I will see you the night before your first exam in 3 weeks in the library frantically scribbling important topics on your post it notes with empty coffee cups and baby staples strewn about.  In fact, I guarantee it.

So, please read this stress-free blog.  If nothing else, you’ll know where to come back and post a comment to prove me wrong. Continue reading

Food & Finances

I rarely buy anything fun for myself.  If I do splurge, it’s always something on sale.  My point is that almost all of my money is spent on food — and coffee.  So, why is it that when I’m at the grocery store, I have an inner struggle paying $20 for dinner ingredients that will feed me and my roommate a home cooked meal AND leave leftovers for us both, but I don’t think twice about dropping $9 for one meal at school that is made from processed ingredients that has been sitting under a heat lamp for 3 hours?   Why, you might ask, will I debate paying $10 for a pound of coffee that will yield 48 cups, but I will unconsciously spend $2.24 a day on ONE at school?  It leads me to wonder how much being lazy is actually costing me in terms of calories AND cash!

My personal rule is that you can eat anything you want IF you prepare it on your own.  That way you have control over the distribution of calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fat that will be most beneficial for you and your needs.  For example, if you prepare a hamburger and French fries at your own house instead of grabbing one from the drive through, you can save yourself over 600 calories and 40 grams of fat!  And although we think fast food is so inexpensive, preparing this meal at home will also save you over 3 dollars!

My original motivation for writing this blog was based on a delicious yogurt parfait at school that I keep purchasing despite its ridiculous price of $4.08.  I knew that if I replicated this creation at home that I could reduce the price. Imagine my surprise when I found I could make it for ½ the cost.  I wish I could say this revelation means the café will never get 4 dollars and 8 cents of my money again. Realistically, this just means that I’ll think twice and might avert a few purchases in the future with my newfound knowledge.  Stay tuned for my next blog where I will divulge some quick and easy DIY calorie and money savers.

(Calorie counts were determined using NutritionCalc Plus and pricing was determined using Harris Teeter express lane.  Also, I’m from Pittsburgh where we drink pop and not soda in case you needed any clarification!)