Hillary’s Challenge

Michelle Goldberg

Hillary Clinton is not our first female secretary of state, but she is our first explicitly feminist one.

This article was originally published in The American Prospect.

On March 27, at a ceremony in Houston, Texas, Hillary Clinton accepted
the Margaret Sanger award from Planned Parenthood. In her speech, she
expressed her "awe" for the family-planning pioneer and then laid out
the connections between reproductive rights and global security.
Calling the reproductive rights movement "one of the most
transformational in the entire history of the human race," she argued
that Sanger’s work isn’t done, in the United States or abroad.

"Too many women are denied even the opportunity to know about how
to plan and space their families," she said. "And the derivative
inequities that result from all of that are evident in the fact that
women and girls are still the majority of the world’s poor, unschooled,
unhealthy, and underfed. This is and has been for many years a matter
of personal and professional importance to me, and I want to assure you
that reproductive rights and the umbrella issue of women’s rights and
empowerment will be a key to the foreign policy of this

Chris Smith, a Republican member of Congress from New Jersey, was
livid. Smith, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has
devoted much of his career to fighting reproductive rights worldwide,
personally prevailing on foreign politicians not to liberalize their
abortion laws and, during the Bush years, leading the charge to freeze
the American contribution to the United Nations Population Fund. On
April 22, when Clinton appeared before the committee to discuss the
administration’s foreign-policy priorities, he lectured her about the
evils he believes Sanger unleashed around the world.

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Then he asked, "Is the Obama administration seeking in any way to
weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin
American countries," either directly or through multilateral
organizations? He continued, "Does the United States’ definition of the
term ‘reproductive health’ or ‘reproductive services’ or ‘reproductive
rights’ include abortion?"

This was the part where most officials would get defensive and
squirm and insist that the United States would never promote abortion.
Instead, Clinton was unequivocal: "When I think about the suffering
that I have seen, of women around the world — I’ve been in hospitals
in Brazil, where half the women were enthusiastically and joyfully
greeting new babies, and the other half were fighting for their lives
against botched abortions. … We happen to think that family planning
is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health
includes access to abortion, that I believe should be safe, legal, and

Hillary Clinton is not our first female secretary of state, but she
is our first explicitly feminist one. She’s been an iconic figure in
the movement for women’s rights globally ever since she gave her
historic 1995 speech at the United Nations Conference on Women in
Beijing. Denouncing a litany of the abuses to which women worldwide are
subject, the then-first lady declared, "Women’s rights are human
rights, once and for all." The New York Times said it "may have been
her finest moment in public life."

Clinton’s confirmation hearings offered a clear sign that she
intended to prioritize women’s issues. "If half the world’s population
remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social
marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in
serious jeopardy," she said. "The United States must be an unequivocal
and unwavering voice in support of women’s rights in every country on
every continent."

Five months into her tenure, we’re beginning to see what that vision
looks like in practice. Ironically, given how politically contentious
they are, reproductive rights may be the area where rapid progress is
easiest. After all, much of what Bush did in this area can essentially
be reversed by fiat. One of Obama’s first acts was to repeal the
so-called "global gag rule," which had denied American funding to
organizations working abroad that perform abortions, counsel women that
abortion is an option, or advocate for abortion-law liberalization.
Obama also restored American funding to the United Nations Population

Now comes the hard part, as Clinton attempts to advance women’s
rights in other areas of foreign policy, including those that haven’t
traditionally put much emphasis on gender, such as peace and security
and agricultural development. Despite her deep personal convictions,
the supportive political environment, and the growing consensus about
the importance of women’s rights to global development, she is going to
face real obstacles. American conservatives are determined to fight not
only international family planning but also multilateral treaties on
women’s rights. Fundamentalists in Muslim countries often react
furiously to attempts to empower women and accuse local feminists of
being agents of Western imperialism, which complicates American efforts
to bolster them. And Clinton is going to have to contend with a State
Department culture that isn’t used to paying much attention to women’s

"Look, I don’t think this is rocket science, I don’t think it’s
resistance for resistance’s sake," says Melanne Verveer, the U.S.
ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues and Clinton’s former
chief of staff. "It’s evolutionary. People in positions that have
policy implications don’t always consider the importance of the women’s
dimension. Sometimes when they’re told that it really should be done,
they check the box, but they don’t really see it for how crucial it
might be to the overall outcome."

To succeed, Clinton must do more than change policy. She needs to do
something that’s both subtler and harder. She has to change the way
State Department employees think about their job. Ultimately, she must
to begin to change cultures, both in Washington and around the world.


Clinton doesn’t come to this challenge alone. For years, experts in
economics, development, and national security have recognized that the
oppression of women leads to economic stagnation and political
instability. Lawrence Summers, no paragon of radical feminism, argued
when he was chief economist of the World Bank that "educating girls
quite possibly yields a higher rate of return than any other investment
available in the developing world."

This realization led to the Clinton administration’s enthusiastic
support for the big United Nations conferences, such as the
International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and the
Conference on Women in Beijing, that were a hallmark of diplomacy in
the 1990s. As the historian Paul Kennedy wrote in his 2006 book about
the United Nations, The Parliament of Man, "By the early 1990s, the
Cold War was over, the Thatcher-Reagan tendency was replaced by kinder,
gentler policies, the notion of ‘human security’ was being pushed by
the [United Nations Development Programme] and the World Bank, and the
facts about the failure to close the gender gap were becoming ever
clearer. … The campaign for gender advancement may have stagnated for
a while, but it was time to push again."

The United States did most of its pushing multilaterally, supporting
feminist language in global agreements like the ones emerging from
Cairo and Beijing. Though unenforceable and too often ignored, these
agreements nevertheless had real impact worldwide. Following them, many
countries in Africa banned female genital cutting. Aid agencies did
more to provide reproductive health services to women in humanitarian
crisis situations. Yet despite these advances, the United States and
the world did little as mass rape was deployed as a weapon of war in
Bosnia, and the Taliban imposed a regime of sadistic gender apartheid
in Afghanistan. Women’s rights remained far from the center of the
foreign-policy agenda.

The Bush administration worked to roll back reproductive rights
internationally and was either indifferent or hostile to international
agreements on women’s rights. At the same time, it bolstered support
for the war in Afghanistan by promising to liberate that country’s
women. Afghanistan’s women did make real progress under the new
government, but women’s rights activists were disappointed by the gap
between rhetoric and reality. "People were frustrated to see a lack of
real resources on the ground directed towards women," says Isobel
Coleman, director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the
Council on Foreign Relations. "To be fair, I think it wasn’t something
specific about women. It was that the whole Afghan effort was done on a

Now people throughout the government are acting on women’s rights in
a more consistent and integrated way than we’ve seen before. In
February, Sen. Barbara Boxer announced that she would be chairing a new
Senate subcommittee on global women’s issues. In March, the
administration carved out a new post devoted to global women’s issues
and appointed Verveer to fill it. The same month, Obama created the
White House Council on Women and Girls, led by his close friend Valerie
Jarrett, which will track the gender implications of federal programs.
Meanwhile, one important piece of legislation related to women’s rights
globally, the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child
Marriage Act, is making its way through Congress, and another, the
International Violence Against Women Act, is expected to come up later
this year. Both would direct new resources to the fight to protect
women and girls globally and would oblige the State Department to act
on their behalf. "I would like to believe we’re at a tipping point
now," Verveer says. "There is a growing body of data that says
investments in women yield high returns." And Clinton, she adds, "has
labored long and hard in this vineyard."

At the same time, one lesson of the last eight years is that, when
it comes to remaking other cultures, the United States usually has less
power than it thinks. Stephen Walt, a professor of international
relations at Harvard and a proponent of a more modest, realist foreign
policy, sounds a note of caution about American initiatives to alter
gender dynamics abroad. "In a lot of countries, the relationship
between men and women is one of the more fundamental ways that society
defines itself," Walt says. "If the U.S. is going in in a heavy-handed
way and saying, ‘We think the way you have organized male-female
relations in your society is all wrong and you should change it now,’
we are almost certainly going to generate a considerable amount of
resentment, resistance, suspicion."

Walt doubts that the United States can fix problems of sexual
inequality in other countries, no matter how hard it tries. As he
points out, we still haven’t figured out how to eliminate violence
against women here in the United States. "We don’t have the slightest
idea how to do this in Congo or Nigeria or Yemen or the former Soviet
Union," he says. "The set of practices that make up attitudes and
relations between men and women in different societies is pretty
complicated. The notion that a bunch of Americans will enact
legislation and a set of polices that will substantially alter
male-female relations in some very different society strikes me as
overly optimistic."

Yet people who work on international women’s issues point to a
number of practical, systematic things that the United States can do to
make a difference to women worldwide. Furthermore, they argue that
American policy handicaps itself when it ignores the reality of women’s
lives. Feminism, they say, is actually a component of realism, not a
fanciful, blithely idealistic departure from it.

"Take food security, which is going to be a significant initiative
of this administration," Verveer says. The Obama team, she points out,
wants to go beyond simply reacting to hunger crises and instead "look
in terms of the long term — how do we enable people around the world
to be more productive, to raise the standard of living, to earn incomes
that will enable them to address the food issue?" The gender dimension
of the problem may not be immediately apparent, but there’s actually no
way to make progress without addressing it.

"Over a long, long time our polices generally did not have a focus
on the fact that women are between 60 [percent] and 80 percent of the
small-holder farmers," Verveer says. "If you’re not really adapting
training, credit, and all the considerations that go into enhancing
productivity in a way that women’s roles in farming enter into it,"
then there’s little hope of progress.

The problem begins with how data is collected, explains Geeta Rao
Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women. "It
starts from presuming that the head of the household is a man and
getting the information only from him," she says. Surveys that only
deal with men’s role in production lead to programs in which only men
get technical advice, fertilizer, seeds, and other assistance. "In any
country in Africa, women are primarily responsible for both subsistence
agriculture, as well as the agricultural products that they sell in the
markets," Gupta says. "The yield is typically very low, and they do not
get the help that men get to maximize their productivity."

Pointing this out, though, is not generally enough to get people to
change the way they’ve been doing their job for years. "It’s going to
require a big systems and operational shift," Gupta says. "I don’t use
the word cultural shift — it’s not so much a cultural shift as it’s a
mandate. Systems need to be put in place for accountability, indicators
against which everybody must measure and report."

Such internal organizational changes are far less exciting than bold
new policy initiatives, but even Walt says they could potentially have
a big impact. "People in the foundation world began to do this 10 or 20
years ago," he says. "If you got money from the MacArthur Foundation,
they wanted to see evidence that you were gender aware. It got an
instantaneous response. In a lot of cases it was pro-forma, but in
other cases it had a more substantial impact." In the State Department,
he says, "Maybe if you really did embed that sensitivity deeply into
lots of criteria for evaluation, you would get the organization to do
more than nod in that direction. It would be more than a few lines in
the foreign-aid budget."


Even if Clinton can turn around the ship of state, promoting women’s
rights internationally is going to require an extraordinary balance of
strength and delicacy. In Pakistan, for example, women are being
grossly victimized by the Taliban, and in some places the government
has acquiesced in the implementation of Sharia law. The United States
has some leverage because it lavishes so much aid on that country, but
American influence on behalf of Pakistani women could be
counterproductive if it’s too visible.

Indeed, Coleman suggests that many Pakistanis have had a muted
reaction to the march of the Taliban "precisely because they’re
conflating what the Taliban is doing to somehow standing up and
resisting the United States." She continues, "If and when women’s
rights are conflated with some type of imposition of Western values,
that becomes a dangerous concoction for women."

This makes some women reluctant to publicly accept help from the
United States. In 2007, for example, the State Department under
Condoleezza Rice created the Women of Courage award, meant to honor
women leaders from around the globe. "Some of the women I know
personally," Coleman says. "They debate whether to accept this award,
because they well understand that it can create problems for them at
home." As Coleman emphasizes, this doesn’t mean that such recognition
isn’t valuable for women working at the grass roots. Besides giving
them a platform, it may also accord a measure of political protection.
Had Iranian women’s rights activist Shirin Ebadi not won the Nobel
Peace Prize, Coleman says, "no doubt that she would be imprisoned by
Iranian authorities."

The trick, then, is to support women working at the grass roots
without overshadowing them. "It’s a matter of how we proceed," Verveer
says. She points, for example, to the four women elected to the Kuwaiti
Parliament in May. "We have worked over a long time at the request of
women in Kuwait to help them win the struggle for the right to vote,"
she says. American policy helped lay the foundation for these women’s
triumph, though the victory is very much their own.

One way that the United States can promote women’s rights without
sparking major backlashes is by working through the United Nations, an
organization that, for all its highly publicized flaws, retains broad
legitimacy in most of the world. To be sure, as a 2008
WorldPublicOpinion.org poll showed, publics in many Muslim countries
believe that the United States controls the world body. Nevertheless,
that same survey, which looked at public opinion in Egypt, Turkey,
Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, the Palestinian Territories, and Azerbaijan,
also found majority support for expanded U.N. powers and influence.
Sixty-three percent of respondents, for example, said the U.N. should
have the authority to go into countries to investigate human-rights

The U.N. is often particularly active in post-conflict situations,
an area where Verveer says more needs to be done to centralize women’s
concerns. "Women are often the victims in conflict, and when issues
like rape as a tool of war are not considered in the peace process,
violence against women often continues afterwards," she says. Last
year, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1820, which, among
other things, reaffirmed that mass rape can constitute a war crime and
even be an element of genocide. Yet as Ellen Chesler, director of the
Women and Public Policy Initiative at Hunter College points out,
"There’s never been a trial at a U.N. criminal court for committing
rape or allowing rape as a war crime."

But the United States, not being a party to the International
Criminal Court, isn’t in much of a position to push for such
enforcement. That’s one reason why many women’s rights advocates argue
that in order for the United States to be an effective advocate for
women globally, it needs to participate more fully in the international
system. "A commitment to gender equality probably means a commitment to
all the human-rights and international cooperative agencies that the
United States right now is not in any position to deliver on," Chesler

That’s especially true when it comes to the Convention on the
Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW. A global treaty,
CEDAW includes the right to education, employment, property ownership,
family planning, and freedom from gender-based violence. Signatory
countries submit periodic reports on their compliance to a U. N.
committee. The committee lacks enforcement mechanisms but can exercise
a degree of moral authority, which the United States could leverage if
it weren’t one of the few nations that has refused to ratify the

Besides the United States, the only other countries that have
refused to ratify CEDAW are Sudan, Somalia, Iran, and a few Pacific
Island states. Obviously, many of the countries that have signed the
treaty violate it every day, but CEDAW has nonetheless proved very
useful. A Tanzanian court cited it in overturning a law prohibiting
women from inheriting "clan" land from their fathers, and in Colombia,
CEDAW was used to secure constitutional pressure against domestic
violence. As Chesler points out in a recent briefing paper, the United
States encouraged both Afghanistan and Iraq to incorporate CEDAW
provisions directly into their constitutions or bill of rights. But as
long as the U.S. refuses to ratify the treaty, it can hardly pressure
other countries to abide by it. "For international credibility, for
foreign-policy leadership on the issue of women and girls, it is
imperative that the U.S. ratify CEDAW," Gupta says.

During the presidential campaign, Clinton, Obama, and Vice President
Joe Biden all promised to seek CEDAW ratification. But the religious
right, which has consistently opposed the treaty as both an attack on
American sovereignty and as an instrument of radical feminism, is
mobilizing against it. In April, a Weekly Standard article
about CEDAW was headlined, "This Is No Time to Go Wobbly." The tone of
the article was anxious; it warned that "CEDAW’s moment may finally
have come."

That may be right. At the same hearing where Clinton took on Chris
Smith, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a California Democrat and a strong supporter
of CEDAW, asked Clinton about the treaty. Clinton responded that the
administration is "forwarding CEDAW, along with other priority
treaties, to the Senate in the hope that this could be the year we
would finally ratify this convention that really does recognize and
support the rights of women." She continued, her voice getting more
emphatic, "We need to move on this."

It looks like she’s already started.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.