Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council, announced on Twitter over the weekend that she had contracted a "high-risk" form of HPV, bringing attention to what some see as a taboo subject, ThinkProgress reported on Monday.
The speaker received a diagnosis that she would need a biopsy after visiting her gynecologist for the first time in two years. But the severity of Mark-Viverito's diagnosis did not stop her from sharing it with her more than 12,000 Twitter followers.
"Yes, I'm an extremely private person, but this position has led me to believe I now have a bigger responsibility," she said, according to Reuters.
Mark-Viverito is one of the most powerful politicians in New York after Mayor Bill de Blasio and controls the agenda of the city's primary legislative body.
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is incurable. While it can go away on its own at times, some of the health problems it can cause, such as genital warts, can be treated. HPV can also cause cervical cancer, but the Gardasil and Cerarix shots are intended to protect against strands of the virus that cause warts and cancer. Even with the availability of vaccines, only 30 percent of women receive the recommended three shots before they turn 30, according to ThinkProgress.
HPV can be detected with a pap smear - which is when a gynecologist conducts tests on cells collected from around the cervix - and a pelvic exam during annual check-ups.
"To say I'm not a wee bit worried = lie," Mark-Viverito wrote in one of her Twitter posts. She added that her gynecologist was taken aback when she heard that the speaker had not been screened in two years.
The outcome of Mark-Viverito's statement, and if it'll make women visit their doctors in droves, is yet to be seen, but some may use the council speaker's messages on Twitter to jump into the issue of a national gynecologist shortfall in the next 20 years.