City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito Tweets That She Has High-Risk HPV
City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito used Twitter Sunday night to announce that she's been diagnosed with high-risk human papillomavirus, or HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection. The speaker added that she needs to undergo a biopsy to test for cervical cancer. The announcement immediately generated a wave of headlines, with the Daily News describing it as a "health bombshell".
Image via Twitter
Mark-Viverito sent a series of tweets from Puerto Rico, where she's officiating over the same-sex wedding of one of her staffers:
Yes, I'm an extremely private person. But this position has led me to understand I now have a bigger responsibility. So....#moretocome— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) August 17, 2014
Our health should never be compromised. Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many.— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) August 18, 2014
Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer.— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) August 18, 2014
The initial reaction to Mark-Viverito's announcement was almost entirely positive and supportive. Linda Sarsour, a well-known civil rights activist and the executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, responded with this:
.@MMViverito I haven't seen a GYN in like 5 years. You just inspired me. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) August 18, 2014
Although it's certainly newsworthy for a high-profile local politician to disclose her STD status on Twitter, calling it a "health bombshell" is a little hyperbolic. HPV is extremely common, to the point where most people reading this sentence probably have it. The CDC estimates that around 79 million Americans have the virus, and around around 14 million people are newly infected each year. According to the National Cancer Institute, two types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer, but it usually takes many years to develop. Even high-risk HPV usually clears on its own in one to two years without any lasting impact. New York's health department recently launched an ad encouraging parents to vaccinate their children against the disease.