This thesis describes how university students, aged 19 to 30, come to see the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil as a worthwhile investment for their health. First, the science behind Gardasil and the social, political, and economic impacts of the vaccine in Canada are explored. Then, drawing on semi-structured interviews and a focus group with students and health care practitioners, I find risk is communicated through various discourses surrounding Gardasil. Once participants learn they are at risk for HPV and cervical cancer, they view their health as at risk through unsafe sexual practices. Ultimately, some participants express a need to practice ‘safe’ sex and access preventative health care, including vaccination with Gardasil. Gardasil is framed as an individual choice and a way to obtain empowerment for young women. Yet, decisions for vaccination related more to the influence of risk discourse and the encouragement of kin, peers and health care providers.
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Thesis advisor: Pigg, Stacy
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