Bartow, FL -- In observance of January as National Cervical Health Awareness Month, the Florida Department of Health in Polk County is offering free vaccinations for human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B during three outreach events at Polk State College.
Health officials describe HPV as the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and say it is a major cause of cervical cancer in woman.
Several other types of cancer in both women and men are also linked to the virus.
"Getting vaccinated is an important step men and women can take to protect themselves against the most common types of HPV," said Randy Crump, RN, FDOH-Polk Nursing Program Specialist.
"By taking action, you can reduce your cancer risk."
Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and 14 million people become newly infected each year.
HPV vaccines are safe and effective. Normally, each dose costs $138. At these events, they are being offered free of charge to residents 18-26 years old through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In addition to the vaccinations, free HIV/AIDS testing and screening for other sexually transmitted diseases will be offered.
HPV and other STIs are transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.
People can also lower their chances of getting HPV by getting vaccinated, being in a faithful relationship with one partner, limiting their number of sex partners, and being with a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners.
Even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, and it may not be possible to determine if a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected.
Health officials remind folks that not having sex is the only sure way to avoid HPV.
Polk County Health Department staffers will provide the free vaccinations at the following events:
- Jan. 9, 2014, from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., at the Polk State College, Winter Haven Campus, in the Student Center, 999 Ave H NE, Winter Haven.
- Jan. 22, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at the Polk State College, Winter Haven Campus, in the Health Center 999 Ave H NE, Winter Haven.
- Jan. 24, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Polk State College, Lakeland Campus, in the Lakeland Technology Building located at 3425 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland.
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