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Columbia Spectator Staff

A group of Barnard students have banded together to fight cervical cancer. The newly-formed group, the HPV Education and Outreach Project, joined forces with Well-Woman, a health promotion student group at Barnard College, to increase awareness of women's health—particularly the risks surrounding human papillomavirus. The 10-member group meets once a week to discuss ways to promote access to information about HPV and its vaccination on campus, in New York City, and abroad. "Starting small is not bad by any means. You have to dream big, but at the same time have realistic goals," Tali Azenkot, BC '13, said, referring to the initial small size of the group. The group is a partnership of the Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer, or GIAHC, which was launched in July by Shobha Krishnan, a staff physician at Barnard and the author of "The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, Cancer, God, and Politics." GIAHC acts as the stage for interested medical and premedical students, medical professionals, and volunteers to serve the campus through "advocacy, action, education, and collaboration," Krishnan said. The GIAHC program offers yearlong internships, research, and volunteer opportunities in India. Students spend two weeks in the model center at the Kutch district of Gujarat, India, then travel with the health care team to different rural communities around India to help set up screening and education centers. "My hope is that students will get a fantastic perspective of global health with a focus on cervical cancer," Krishnan said. At a recent meeting of student group, Hannah Roher, BC '13, suggested that the project work to make the Gardasil vaccine more easily accessible to students. The group is currently working on setting up a clinic for Gardasil shots, which are free at Barnard, at the college's Primary Health Care Service center, much in the same way Barnard currently provides flu shot clinic hours for students. "I think that the program does a really great job of bringing together both public health and medicine," said Zara Mogilevsky, BC '11, a premedical student and member of the Pre-Health Students Organization at Barnard. "A lot of premedical students are beginning to realize that being a doctor is about more then just science—and a lot of my premedical friends and myself have become increasingly interested in public health," Mogilevsky said. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is most prevalent in 15- to 24-year-olds, Krishnan noted. She urged students to educate themselves on HPV. "They [students] need to know the importance of screening, the fact that the new vaccine prevents about 70 percent of cervical cancer and protects against genital warts caused by HPV," she said. On fighting against cervical cancer, Krishnan said, "This is such a legit cause. It is the only cancer that is completely preventable with safe and inexpensive methods. It should not be as prevalent in society as it is." "I think if this organization comes together it can be something that can spread like a wildfire. Student groups are powerful forces. They can be the voice that eventually brings down the burden of cervical cancer," Krishnan said.

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