Pap smears, which are recommended annually, provide detection of the presence of pre-cancerous conditions leading to cervical cancer that can, when detected, be treated.
That leaves risk exposure of about 500 deaths per year from cervical cancer if possible prevention by Pap smear were taken into account. The annual revenue projections to Merck for sales of the Gardasil vaccine for HPV are between $2 billion and $4 billion. A good chunk will come from our Medicaid tax dollars.
The risk exposure is disproportionate among low-income women. They are the ones most likely not to get a Pap smear and most likely to have multiple sex partners, which is how the virus gets transmitted. It should be clear that the problem we're contending with is more accurately defined as one of human behavior rather than health. Our well-intentioned Medicaid dollars are really picking up the tab for irresponsible behavior.
This logically gets back to the education question. Specifically, where is it? And, recall that we are now spending more on Medicaid than education.
Educators in our public schools may well claim that they are telling these girls about Pap smears, and that may well be the case. What can you do if the girls ignore what they are told, and if their families, which are more than likely single parents, are not properly engaged?
And how about the part about sexual behavior?
We need to consider what we are doing to our poor children in that we will not even permit them the choice to go to a church school where they can learn the values that will help them live, prosper and change what now is the inevitable direction of their lives.
This is where the conflicting views on poverty converge. These kids are victims. But we are irresponsible as a society in that we refuse them the opportunity to learn what it takes to take responsibility for their own lives. And we are paying the tab for this. Big time.