We at The Gabbler were a bit taken aback when Human Papillomavirus (HPV) 44, a low-risk strand of the virus, requested an interview to with us to “set the record straight about me and my strand.” At first, we weren’t sure if we’d want to hear what he had to say. Heck, we weren’t even sure if we wanted to come into contact with him. But it turns out that when he’s not actively trying to spread, HPV’s a pretty nice guy.
The Gabbler: It’s a, um — pleasure to meet you, Mr. HPV.
HPV: Oh, please. I know what you see when you look at me.
TG: What do you mean?
HPV: I see you, edging your chair away from me. You think I’m a dirty, nasty sex virus and you’re scared of being associated with me.
TG: That is not true.
HPV: Oh, yeah? Why is it that I’m never mentioned in coming-of-age novels? Why has there never been a personal essay written about me? There has never even been a RomCom about HPV and that genre is starving for new plot lines. I’m mean, I’m about the only thing that isn’t mentioned in people’s Facebook statuses these days.
TG: Do you really aspire to be the topic of people’s Facebook statuses?
HPV: Doesn’t everyone?
TG: And you want to see a romantic comedy about HPV?
HPV: Yes. Why doesn’t Katherine Heigl ever get HPV from her dream man?
TG: Well, because it’s not very romantic.
HPV: Well, neither is getting pregnant with Seth Rogan’s baby, but I still enjoyed Knocked Up.
TG: Okay, you have a point. We as a society aren’t exactly comfortable talking about HPV and other STDs.
HPV: No shit. Like, why didn’t you offer me your hand? Have you no manners at all?
TG: Okay, okay, I’m sorry. Hey – wait a minute.
HPV: What? We were just about to shake hands and have a lovely conversation—
TG: You’re spread by skin-to-skin contact, aren’t you? Are you trying to trick me?
HPV: I’m genital HPV. It’s not like you can get me on your hands. You’re thinking of a planter’s wart, my non-genital cousin.
TG: Oh. But still, what if I had to like, adjust my tights? You can still be spread if my hand touches my underwear or something.
HPV: You do have some serious wedgie action going on.
TG: Oh, crap! (Bends over to adjust, then stops.) No, I don’t!
HPV: I’m sorry. I hate myself for doing it, but a virus has gotta spread somehow. It was worth a shot.
TG: See, this is why people don’t like you! Speaking of which, I’ve already gotten my shots, anyway.
HPV: No, people don’t like me because of the preconceived notions they have about sexually transmitted infections and diseases. But I am glad you got the shots, although Gardasil only protects you against four types of us. They’ll protect you from two of my high-risk cousins: 16 and 18. Those a-holes cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer. Also, the shots protect you against 6 and 11, both of whom are responsible for about 90 percent of genital warts. Ugh. They’re no fun at all. But hey man, you can’t choose your family, you know?
TG: So wait, you don’t cause warts or cancer?
HPV: Not my particular strain, no. I’m HPV 44. I’m a low-risk strain. We are way more common. This is exactly why I wanted this interview. I’m so tired of hearing all these people talk about me like I’m this horrible thing that only happens to skanks, resulting in warts and cancer and a life of cervix-less chastity and shame. Unless nearly 80 percent of women are doomed to that fate, I think everyone needs to just chill out.
TG: 80 percent!?
HPV: Yeah, roughly 80 percent of all women will have me or one of my relatives over the course of their lives.
TG: But I mean, skanks definitely get HPV more often, right?
HPV: Honestly, it depends entirely on the skank. If she wears condoms, has gotten all the shots, gets tested every year, and is frank and honest with her partners about their sexual histories, she stands a good a chance as any prude to be HPV-free.
TG: Except for the people who don’t have sex at all, of course.
HPV: Well, remember, I can be spread through all types of skin-to-skin sexual contact, not just vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Even nuns may have fooled around in the back of cars when they were 16. In fact, there has been a documented case of a nun with HPV. And, there have been cases of women who were virgins up until they were married who got HPV.
TG: Did one of them cheat?
HPV: See, that’s another thing. I’m not trying to be the guy who breaks up an otherwise happy couple! I’m just kind of a lazy disease. I can lie dormant for months or years before I decide to do something. So just because a married woman randomly has HPV, it doesn’t mean that either of them cheated. It’s just me
TG: You must get a little bored, though, just being latent?
HPV: Yeah. Netflix helps, and I’ve been really getting into that new show, Girls, so that passes the time.
TG: You just like the fact that Lena Dunham wrote you into one of the episodes.
HPV: Brilliant young woman. Ahead of her time, really.
TG: So, can men can get you, too?
HPV: Of course. Women and men. But the unfortunate thing is that there really isn’t any test to see if men have me, and I rarely produce symptoms. So I end up falling victim to perpetuating the idea that it’s the woman who becomes “unclean” for having sex, not the dude.
TG: Yeah. Thanks a lot, HPV.
HPV: I’m sorry! But it’s really more your whole culture. If I weren’t transmitted sexually, and you found out you had HPV 44 – the low-risk strand – you’d be like: “Sweet, I lucked out on this one. No symptoms and it will probably go away on its own within a few months? I got off easy!”But because sex or sexual activity is involved, it’s shameful and disgusting and it’s God’s way of punishing you for something that every single animal does or something. You Americans and your weird Puritanism roots.
TG: Well, I—
HPV: –I mean, there are some scary STDs out there. AIDS is obviously the worst. But Herpes? That shit never goes away. Or syphilis? If it isn’t treated properly, you’re brain literally melts and you go insane. My high-risk cousins aren’t any laughing matter, either. You should be happy to have a low-risk HPV, for Pete’s sake. Like, thank God I have just low-risk HPV!And just to set the record straight, STDs have been around for a long time. They just were rarely identified. We didn’t just spontaneous develop as a result of the sexual revolution in the sixties and shows like Sex and the City.
TG: You’re right. You really are. I’m sorry I was so cold to you at first.
HPV: I don’t blame you entirely, though. Doctors, researchers, and educators need to be more open about me, instead of being worried that they are going to be accused of wanting 11 year old girls to have sex just because that’s the ideal age to get the shot. Plus, they need to find a way to detect HPV in males. There are a few tests out there, but they are invasive and there is nothing FDA-approved.
TG: But if all those things happen, won’t you be a lot closer to being gone for good?
HPV: Ha! I’ll never been gone for good. We viruses are very adaptable. But just because I seek to infect your body and manipulate your cells, doesn’t mean we can’t take a break to have an honest, candid conversation every once in a while. Now, give me a hug!
TG: How about just a friendly wave?
HPV: You’re catching on!