Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sometimes I wonder why I do it to myself, I really do. I tell myself it’s all about know thy enemy and all that, but in reality I just seem to be winding myself up in the extreme. What I do is that I sometimes read the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, I never buy the things, I read them on line and then inevitably end up reading the comments.

My views on both these publications is well known and I wont repeat them now, however one article really touched a nerve today.

On the Daily Express site there was a debate on the “Have your say” section about giving the vaccination against the Human Papilom virus, which is a major cause of cervical cancer, to girls as young as 12. The introduction written by the paper was as ever as biased as they come, but not in the direction that I expected. I’d expected some rant about encouraging young girls to have sex too early, but actually no, it took another stance typical of the paper along the lines of the health risks that might arise from the vaccination itself. Stats were, as ever, used in a totally distorted manner, it is at times like this that I thank God for my degree in biology in that I can pick out the bad science and bad reporting that often accompanies such scare mongering. That however is even then by the by.

What wound me up the point of distraction was the views of the people contributing to the debate. They tended to come in a number of categories.

First the only one I can see as a valid argument, one I disagree with, but nevertheless is worthy of consideration. That was that a programme costing £300 million would save around 400 lives a year. Now the fact is that you cannot put a price on a human life. Ever. However it is also the fact that the National health service also only has a limited budget per year. Could more lives be saved by spending the money on something else? I honestly don’t have enough knowledge to answer that question and I will admit that it is an argument that scares me on more than one level.

The rest of the arguments varied from the absurd, to the misguided, to the just plane disgusting.

First the argument that it encourages girls to have sex under age. No it doesn’t. Could I just remind everyone that girls are vaccinated against rubella at the age of 11 in order to prevent damage to their un born child should they contract it during pregnancy? Does that encourage under age sex? Of course it doesn’t. So why should this vaccination? What encourages under age sex normally is an absence of education both in terms of sex education and in how to deal with relationships, coupled with under age drinking and the misogynistic attitude often handed down to young male teenagers that women are there to be conquered and another tick on the bed post rather than anyone to have a cherished relationship with.

Education that teaches young people the importance of stable relationships, the importance of self respect and most of all about safe sex is what is needed, but not a totally dogmatic approach. Yes sex in a stable loving relationship may be the best way (you may disagree with me!) but that does not mean that sex outside of this is wrong or shameful.

Next we have this idea, engendered by the intro to the debate, that this is harmful to our children’s health. There will always be risks and side effects with any drugs. Some people are allergic to penicillin, and tragically some people died finding this out. Of course that is a tragedy, but lets face it far more people are alive today because of penicillin than Have been killed by it. The trouble here is the inability for someone to understand the concept of risk. It is the same argument that says because “My Grandad smoked everyday and lived till he was 107 so smoking can’t be harmful”. It’s an absurd argument and so is this. I’ve said it more than once, the standard of education in terms of understanding the risk of such things has got to be sorted out.

Finally, and this took my breath away, I was utterly appalled. Several individuals argued that the problem with sexual health in this country was caused by, and I quote, “filthy immigrants and the germs they carry.” Yes, that’s right, these people were actually arguing that only foreigners have diseases and they should all be sent home.

Where do you even start when dealing with some one like that? I am an unashamed bleeding hearted liberal. I don’t believe in smacking some one round the head with a stick as a punishment, but in cases like this? It leaves me wanting to stand in the street screaming at passers by, words just cannot express how angry and frustrated it makes me feel. And for someone that wants to be a writer that is sickening.

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