New York City council speaker reveals HPV diagnosis to raise awareness

NEW YORK Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:13pm EDT

New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito smiles as she speaks after being elected speaker of the city council inside of City Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York January 8, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito smiles as she speaks after being elected speaker of the city council inside of City Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York January 8, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, announced at the weekend that she has a "high-risk" form of HPV to try to raise awareness about the common but often stigmatized sexually transmitted infection.

Her gynecologist gave her the diagnosis on Friday and said she would need to have a biopsy, she said in a series of messages posted to her Twitter account.

"Yes, I'm an extremely private person," she wrote to explain her decision to publicize her infection. "But this position has led me to understand I now have a bigger responsibility."

Mark-Viverito, who took office in January, is one of the most powerful political figures in New York after Mayor Bill de Blasio and controls the agenda of the city's main legislative body.

There is no cure for HPV, which is short for human papillomavirus, although it sometimes goes away on its own, and some of the health problems it can cause, such as genital warts, can be treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some forms of HPV, which is transmitted through sex with an infected person, are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer in women.

"To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie," Mark-Viverito wrote in one of her Twitter posts. She said her gynecologist was "alarmed" that she had not been screened in two years.

Dozens of other Twitter users, including some fellow New York City politicians, praised Mark-Viverito, saying her announcement was brave.

An estimated 79 million Americans have some form of the virus, the CDC says.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Jim Loney)

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