HPV Vaccines not linked to Riskier Sexual Behavior

HPV vaccine not the cause of risky sexual behavior

New research looking at infection rates of Sexually transmitted diseases in girls vaccinated against HPV finds no link between getting vaccinated and riskier sexual behavior.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a virus with dozens of subgroups. Some HPV viruses causes no health issues, while others can cause genital warts and even cancer. Infection by some types of HPVs is linked to an increased risk of some forms of cancer meaning getting vaccinated to combat the virus also prevents cancer from developing. When the vaccine, Gardasil, was ready for use 2006 it was controversial to vaccinate young girls in some countries. The moral objection was that vaccinating girls against a sexually transmitted virus would somehow change their behavior turning them into nymphomaniacs. Do getting vaccinated lead to riskier sexual behavior? …Is the topic of new research from Harvard medical school.

HPV Vaccines not linked to riskier sexual behavior

The findings were published in Jama Internal Medicine.

The preconceived notion of sexual promiscuity originated in the US. When Gardasil, the first HPV vaccine, was introduced in 2006 it led to a moral panic based on sketchy logic laced with fear. The fear of people was that vaccinating against a specific type of virus could be misunderstood as blanket protection against many different types of STDs, apparently the only thing preventing girls from having copious amounts of sex. This preconceived moral objection led to a vaccine ban in some states and leaving many unable to get protection against the cancer-causing virus.

In this study researchers compared 21,000 girls getting vaccinated against HPV with 186,000 unvaccinated girls in the same age range, with the same insurance plan in the same region in the US. The rate of sexually acquired infections were measured quarterly in both groups starting one year before getting vaccinated lasting until one year after.

Researchers found that the rate of STDs increased as the girls got older. The rates of STDs in girls getting the vaccine was higher (4.3 infections /100 girls) at the start of the study compared to unvaccinated girls (2.8 infection /1000 girls) possibly due to already being sexually active. After getting the vaccine there wasn’t any significant difference in the rate that girls got sexually transmitted infections. Meaning vaccinated girls weren’t at a higher risk of getting sexually transmitted infections. The vaccine will not turn girls onto riskier sexual behavior.

“If providing girls with the HPV vaccine caused an increase in risky sexual behavior, we would expect to have seen a steeper increase in STI rates in the quarters following administration of the vaccine. We found no such increase, causing us to conclude that there was no association between using the vaccine and unsafe sexual practices,” said study co-author Seth Seabury

What many might not know is that the HPV vaccine protects both girls and boys from various forms of cancer. In girls the vaccine protects against cervical cancer, but the vaccine also protects against genital warts and anal cancer. HPV infections also increases the risk of penile and anal cancer in boys, meaning both genders benefits from HPV vaccinations.

Image Credit: Milan Ilnyckyj via flickr.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0