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1 out of 3 doctors aren't recommending the HPV vaccine. We need to talk about why.

Talking about sex with your teen can be awkward, but we should do it anyway.

1 out of 3 doctors aren't recommending the HPV vaccine. We need to talk about why.

A recent survey in Pediatrics found that more than one-third of doctors aren't strongly recommending the HPV vaccine to their preteen patients. That's a lot of doctors, but it's way more patients. 

HPV is the fastest-growing STI in the United States.

The HPV vaccines, known as Gardasil and Cervarix, can protect against some of the most common strains, including some that may lead to cervical cancer. 


The HPV vaccine was introduced in the United States in 2006, and since then, there has been a 56% reduction of the vaccine-covered strains in girls ages 14-19. It's now recommended for all children (not just girls) ages 11 and older.  

When properly administered, the vaccine is nearly 100% effective at preventing cervical, vaginal, and vulvar precancers, and Gardasil prevents about 90% of genital warts.

If it's already made such an impact, why isn't it being recommended?

Basically, doctors aren't recommending the vaccine to patients because they don't want to talk about sex.

This is society when you bring up sex. Except when you're trying to sell something. GIF via "Jane the Virgin."

The Victorians would be so proud. 

Less than 2% of preteens under age 12 are sexually active, but that number increases significantly throughout adolescence. By age 16, 48% of teens are sexually active. 

Kids want to talk to their parents about it. Seriously.

A 2012 survey found that nearly 9 in 10 teens said it would be easier to "postpone sexual activity and avoid pregnancy if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents." 

Albert, B. (2012). With One Voice 2012: America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Parents want to have these conversations too.

If both parents and teens want to talk to each other, why don't we?

Because it's awkward. Because we feel unqualified. Because we assume that our kids will get that education at school. Unfortunately, sex education still looks like like this in a lot of schools: 

This is statistically not likely to happen, just saying. GIF from "Mean Girls."

A huge part of parenting is talking to your kids about tough topics, even if it's a bit uncomfortable. Here are some ways to start that conversation.

You got this. GIF via "Parks and Recreation."

*deep breaths*

1. Use television shows, movies, and current events to start a conversation.

We often imagine The Talk as something scary, solemn, and heavily planned out. You intercept your teen as they walk in the door after school, and they know immediately. They start mumbling. You start talking about how you're not a regular mom, you're a cool mom. At some point, you both stop making eye contact. 

It doesn't need to be that way. You can use media to open the door, even if that means you just point out articles in the newspaper or ask how they felt about certain moments in their favorite shows. 

2. Start early.

You know how we start learning languages with the alphabet? Talking about sex is like that. You start easy and work your way up.

When children are young, talk to them about boundaries. Talk about what bodies do, and normalize those things. Did you find your first-grader with a tampon up their nose, pretending to be a walrus? Laugh (and take the tampon out of their nose) and tell them what tampons are for. It's a lot less scary to get your period the first time if you actually know what a period is. 

3. Don't think of it as The Talk.

"The Talk" has become such a loaded phrase that all parents within a mile radius instantly groan when someone says "Yeah, we had The Talk last night."

If we stop thinking about it as just one conversation — as The Talk — we start to normalize conversations about sex and sexuality. This goes right along with starting early. If you talk to your kids regularly about their bodies and relationships, it's a lot less scary for everyone. 

4. Come with your own set of questions for your child's doctor.

Health care is a team effort, especially if your children are very young. Come prepared with a set of questions for your doctor. Are you curious about the HPV vaccine? Talk with them about it. If you start the conversation with them about your child's sexual health, they may be more comfortable discussing whether the vaccine — or other health measures — are right for your child. 

But remember — your child may want to talk to their doctor alone. It doesn't mean they don't trust you, it just means that they may feel a bit awkward having that conversation with a group of people. Trust that your doctor will let you know if your child is being hurt by themselves or by another person. 

5. When you don't know, don't fake it.

Repeat after me: It's OK to not know all the answers. If you don't know the answer to a question or if you aren't certain, look it up together! There is no shame in not knowing, and research is often being updated, so what you learned as a teen might not be up-to-date. 

Some websites that you can turn to for accurate, up-to-date information are ScarleteenSex, Etc., Our Bodies Ourselves, and The Guttmacher Institute.

I'm not saying it's always going to be easy.

But if you could help your child stay healthy and have healthy relationships, wouldn't you want to? We've come a long way in preventing HPV, treating STIs, and preventing and treating HIV. So let's not let our fear of sex hold us back. 

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Let's show those doctors that we're ready to talk about it. 

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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