One day, in my late 20’s, I was in a car with a friend and she told me about this sexually transmitted virus that almost every woman has been exposed to that causes cancer even if you are using condoms.

There was a lot to take in during that conversation. I never thought about cervical cancer as a teenager. I had never heard of human papillomavirus (HPV). The idea that cancer could be caused by a virus never crossed my mind.

Since then, I have learned a lot more about HPV — including that use of condoms does reduce the risk of transmission. As I have learned about HPV, I have learned about its connection to cervical cancer. As I learned about cervical cancer, I learned about the importance of getting regular pap smears.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. But I think we are taking tremendous steps to reduce cervical cancer deaths.

First, we learned the link between HPV and cervical cancer. Then, we discovered a vaccine for HPV. Recently, we made the HPV vaccine available free of charge.

Now, we talk about and write about and blog about HPV and cervical cancer.

What can you do? You can get screened. You can get vaccinated. You can let others know to get screened and get vaccinated. And you can let them know they may have free access to preventive services because of the Affordable Care Act, including free cervical cancer screens, free HPV vaccinations and free testing for HPV.