April is National Sexual Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness month, which means it is a time for education and testing. Due to the fact that STDs can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, sometimes there are incorrect assumptions about how the diseases are spread, how to protect against them, and even how testing works. One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases is the Human papillomavirus (HPV), which is also a disease that iCubed founder and University of Rhode Island professor, Annie De Groot, M.D. has worked hard to raise awareness on, in her community and around the world.

In May of 2014, De Groot along with some of her colleagues published a study entitled “HPV Knowledge and Vaccine Acceptance in an Uninsured Hispanic Population in Providence, RI.” The article covered a serious problem in De Groot’s own backyard, that many people in the Hispanic community were not getting themselves vaccinated against HPV. The Food and Drug Administration have approved two vaccines; however some people still are not always open to receiving the vaccination that not only protects men and women from HPV but also lowers the risk for cervical cancer in women. The article explained that although this population in Providence was high that “willingness to vaccinate oneself or one’s child was very high after a brief video-based intervention.” This article shows how important STD awareness can be, especially when it comes to the treatment and prevention of these types of diseases or infections.

A few months after the publication on the article, in November of 2014, De Groot was awarded a prestigious $100,000 grant in order to continue her work with HPV by launching a campaign for cervical cancer prevention. Annie, along with being a hardworking professor and the head of many science laboratories and companies, also is the founder of the Global Alliance to Immunize Against AIDS Vaccine Foundation (GAIA VF) said, “ We are putting the power of storytelling to work to fight cancer, faced with the overwhelming lack of knowledge about cervical cancer in Africa and the availability of a vaccine that effectively prevents it, we felt we had to do something that had immediate impact. And there is no better way to do that in West Africa than make a statement with a fashionable outfit.’’ De Groot believes that using clothing as social media, which is a revolutionary new way to reach the people of Africa, may be a key in raising awareness to people who so desperately need life saving education on STDs and STIs.

De Groot teamed up with a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, Eliza Squibb, to create a garment that would showcase the disease by using traditional textiles to show a healthy uterus surrounded by detrimental viruses. In July, De Groot and Squibb showed of their garment in West Africa where the response was even better than expected. Women wanted to wear the garment- and get vaccinated.

Getting educated and vaccinated when possible against STDs and STIs is important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This April, during National STD Education and Awareness month, take the time to learn more about not just HPV, but about the many others STD’s and STI’s that are so common among college age kids. Staying educated and vaccinated is the only way to remain healthy against these common, but preventable diseases and infections. To learn more, read the full article or visit reliable websites such as the CDC or iCubed!