Readers respond to "When Your Kids Are in the Line of Fire," by Beth Frerking, and "Panic in the Sheets," by Damien Cave.

By Salon Staff

Published October 14, 2002 7:09PM (EDT)

[Read "When Your Kids Are in the Line of Fire," by Beth Frerking.]

This has to be the most breederific piece of "journalism" I have ever read. So it's not important that six adults are dead. They don't matter because they were over 18. It doesn't matter that they had families to take care of, friends and co-workers to mourn them. It's not important that they were contributing members of society and that their wisdom and knowledge can never be replaced. It only crosses the line when it's a CHILD? Bull!

Beth Frerking wants everyone else to look out for her child but she doesn't care about anyone else BUT her child. Pretty selfish, I say.

-- Susan Hammock

The sniper failed Criminal 101. He shot a child. Had he continued shooting adults, his victim list would probably exceed a dozen or more before the outrage and shock reached the same level as shooting a single child.

At what age of the victim does our collective outrage start diminishing? Are adults so unimportant that Salon, chiefs of police, and sundry journalists don't start becoming outraged until a child is a victim?

The adult victims of the D.C. sniper were just as helpless as the teenaged victim. Those adults had family and friends. They had parents. Tears of loss will flow for decades over the loss of the first sniper victims. Yet our collective outrage only raises when a teenager is seriously wounded.

It's very sad when the value of life is based on age.

-- Andrew

[Read "Panic in the Sheets," by Damien Cave.]

I was part of a 10-year study on HPV done by the University of California at San Francisco. I contracted it from my boyfriend when I was 18.

At the end of the 10-year study period, those of us who had been part of the study from the beginning were invited to a presentation given by the lead physicians.

Shockingly, we heard that most of us had cleared the virus from our bodies completely!

When I first contracted HPV, I had been told that I now had a greatly increased risk of cervical cancer, that I could never have sex without a condom again, that I would most likely never rid myself of external warts, etc. Terrifying stuff, to be sure.

Now, 10 years later, I found out that I had only had HPV for six months before clearing it from my system. And this was not unusual. Over 90 percent of women studied cleared the virus from their systems within 36 months!

I quote: "Since 1990, Moscicki's group has followed a cohort of more than 800 adolescents and young women who attended family planning clinics. So far, they have overturned a number of assumptions about HPV. Most strikingly, they have shown that for most young women, HPV is not necessarily a life-long infection. Most appear to clear the virus from their bodies."

This evidence directly opposes what young people are being told about HPV being a lifelong horrible disease. Sure, it's not a walk in the park, and for people who have compromised immune systems, it can indeed be serious.

But it's no HIV. An infection that clears up by itself in 90 percent of cases? Ah, we only *wish* that HIV could be so innocuous!

Why is the truth about this being hidden? Why are so many doctors and educators clueless about this study?

-- Laura Hamilton

Another drawback of the abstinence-only programs is that they never mention anything about gay sex. The unfortunate consequences are that it increases the anxiety that gay kids have about their perceived abnormalcy, and doesn't prepare them to make informed choices when they eventually do have sex.

I was once drawn into a debate with a conservative gay 17-year-old boy who was in near hysterics about the inadequacies of condom usage. Other gay youth make the conclusion that they are "mostly safe" from STDs because sex ed programs of all stripes only focus on heterosexual issues.

Does HPV affect gays and lesbians? Unfortunately, one is left guessing after reading Damien Cave's article.

-- Chad Eberle

Thanks for the lead article on HPV and the myths being spread about it (as fast as the disease itself, it seems).

A couple of years ago, there was an HPV scare amongst my sexually networked circle of friends and acquaintances. The amount of fear over what is basically the common cold of STDs was unbelievable. Relationships ended, friendships were strained, and a lot of harsh words were said. And this was among a group of sexually experienced, non-abstinent people who diligently practice safer sex techniques. I can only imagine the panic produced by abstinence-only programs that "inform" teens that HPV is a death sentence.

I didn't get caught up in the hysteria, and did everything I could to educate myself and others about HPV. The No. 1 thing I learned is that there are many HPV strains, only a few of which are associated with cervical lesions. The No. 2 thing is that cervical cancer is virtually 100 percent preventable if women get screened regularly, and most of the deaths in the U.S. occur among people who haven't gotten regular healthcare (often because they are poor or unemployed, but I'll spare you my rant about the American healthcare system ...)

Thanks again.

-- Ann Muir Thomas, Ph.D.

Salon Staff

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