Sex, drugs, and politics: The HPV vaccine for cervical cancer

Monica J. Casper, Laura M. Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. While most strains are relatively harmless, some increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer. This article explores the intimate, contested relationships among etiologies of cervical cancer, development and use of the new HPV vaccine, and contested notions of sexuality. We particularly focus on shifts in US health care and sexual politics, where the vaccine has animated longstanding concerns about vaccination (e.g. parental rights, cost, specialisation) and young women's bodies and behaviour. We conclude that vaccines are a distinctive kind of pharmaceutical, invoking notions of contagion and containment, and that politics shape every aspect of the pharmaceutical lifecourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-899
Number of pages14
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Cervical cancer
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Politics
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI)
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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