HARLEM — City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito revealed on Twitter Sunday that she has "high risk HPV," a sexually transmitted disease that could lead to cervical cancer.
"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out," Mark-Viverito tweeted. "Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV." #Biopsy needed #ASAP."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted disease. About 14 million men and women become newly infected each year by the virus that is usually transmitted by genital contact during vaginal or anal sex, according to the CDC.
Most people will contract the virus at some point in their lifetime, yet suffer no symptoms because their immune system successfully fights it off, according to the CDC.
But some types of high-risk HPV can lead to cervical cancer. The CDC says there are about 33,200 HPV-related cancer cases in the country each year. A positive HPV test does not mean that the individual will develop cervical cancer.
Mark-Viverito, who is normally reserved about her private life, said as much in her first cryptic tweet this weekend.
"Yes, I'm an extremely private person. But this position has led me to understand I now have a bigger responsibility. So......#moretocome," read Mark-Viverito's initial tweet.
The 45-year-old Mark-Viverito, who was in Puerto Rico to preside over a wedding Sunday, tweeted that she'll be getting the biopsy on Tuesday.
"To say I'm not wee bit worried=lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer," wrote Mark-Viverito, who also shared that it had been two years since she'd had a gynecological check-up.
The city's health department recently launched an ad campaign to promote the benefits of the HPV vaccine for pre-teens. Half of the 14 million new HPV infections occur in 15- to 24-year-olds. The vaccine is recommended for boys and girls 11 to 12 years old but can be given as early as 9 years old.
According to the city's health department, 47 percent of New York City boys and 64 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 have received one dose of the vaccine. Approximately 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys in the same age group have received all three doses of the vaccine, which health officials say provides full protection from HPV.
Immediate reaction to Mark-Viverito's personal news on Twitter was positive.
"Thank you for telling your story & showing how personal is political," wrote activist Rachel Lavine.
Fellow council member Rory Lancman also tweeted out his support.
"@MMViverito Just saw, my prayers are with you. Hope your courageous sharing inspires others to take this health issue seriously," Lancman tweeted.
Linda Sarsour tweeted that the news inspired her to check on her own health.
"I haven't seen a GYN in like 5 years. You just inspired me. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others," she wrote.