One Jewish mother's approach to vaccinating her sons for HPV

Two people I know have had run-ins with HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus. One was a man my age that got a mouth cancer which was viral in origin. The other was one of my personal trainers, who fell in love with a man that had vaginal warts caused by the HPV, and had to pay for her own Gardasil series before they had sex.

I wish my boys had had Gardasil. In 2007, my youngest was 17, and over six feet tall, and a junior in high school. I could not even get him to do his homework. How could I get him to agree to series of three shots, painful shots, administered over the course of 6 months?

The recent press and new guidelines about giving Gardasil to boys moved me to talk to my gynecologist, Tanya Spirtos, M.D., about HPV vaccine again.

Tanya is a big deal. She is a great doctor, and a trustee of the California Medical Association. She is now in favor of giving Gardasil to boys and men. “There is a lot more anal and oral sex now than when we were young,” she said. ‘You have the Farrah Fawcett syndrome.’

“What?” I said.

“Nobody talks about it, but Farrah Fawcett died of anal cancer. There aren’t that many reasons for anal cancer.”

Tanya vaccinated her daughter 4 years ago, and is now waiting for her son, her daughters’ twin, to come home from college so she can vaccinate him.

Before I spoke to Tanya, I heard that my internist’s son had already the Gardasil series, so when we were driving to a hockey game I brought it up with my older son.

That was so awkward that in the middle of the chat, I stuck my head out the window for a little while and shrieked.

I wish I spoken to Tanya first. She told me that because my son is in a committed relationship with a woman who has had the Gardasil vaccination already, she said, it would be a waste of money for him to get the vaccine. HPV would not enter their bodies unless one or the other of them cheats and catches it from someone else.

When I tried to talk to my younger son about HPV, he cut the conversation short. “Mom,” he said. Can we not talk about this when I’m eating?”

Tanya tells me that if he does not get the shots, the only way to protect him is to make sure his partner has been vaccinated.

So now I have a plan. If my younger son does not get the vaccine, and I hear of an impending hookup, I will protect my child from diseases caused by the HPV by calling call up the ‘hookee’ myself and making sure they have had their shots.

Son, are you listening?

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I contracted HPV from a monogamous male partner with whom I used protection for vaginal intercourse, but not oral sex. Fortunately, I never suffered warts and I was virus free 6 months later, thanks to my gynecologist's guidance and daily doses of vitamin C and folic acid. Of course, even though I have no symptoms, having had the virus increases my risk for cervical and other cancers, which is a bit devastating.

The point is, my boyfriend did not know he had HPV and the woman who gave it to him likely did not know she had it. So all boys and men, single or in committed relationships, "infected" partner or not, should be vaccinated, and it is not a waste of money. A painful shot is over in seconds, and you can't trust the health status of all your partners' previous lovers.

Also, men cannot have vaginal warts, because they lack vaginas. I think you mean genital warts. Good luck and the best of health to you and your sons.

In reply to by Naomi


Thanks for catching the typo. I did mean genital warts, not vaginal. The whole topic of STDs makes me squeamish--I got married in 1984, when you had to have a blood test in NY to detect syphilis to get a marriage license, and herpes was the only part of love that lasted forever.

. How did you find out? Did your boyfriend develop warts? My gynecologist told me that while woman can tell if they have the virus from getting a Pap smear, there is no such test for men.

So, if you get regular Pap smears you should be fine.

Ach, viruses. Feh.

Good luck and thanks for the comment.

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How to cite this page

Tramiel, Preeva. "One Jewish mother's approach to vaccinating her sons for HPV." 18 November 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 22, 2024) <>.