No Link: HPV Vaccine and Sexual Behavior

After last week’s show and live chat on HPV, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about HPV, cervical cancer and the vaccine. Many professionals, parents and patients have different views: Should young men and women get the vaccine? When should they get it? Is it safe?

Dr. Diane Harper, in our live chat, endorsed this vaccine as a personal choice between you and your doctor. However, one of the most common arguments I hear against getting the vaccine is that some parents feel it will encourage their kids to have more sex or become promiscuous – without the fear of contracting HPV.

As a father of three girls, I could understand why so many parents would be worried. However, a new study from the UK shows this is not the case among adolescent girls.

The researchers followed 1,053 adolescent girls in the UK between the ages of 16 and 18. Of those, 433 had been given the vaccine and 620 had not been given the vaccine. They found that “those who had been offered the HPV vaccine were no more likely to be sexually active than the group of girls who had not been offered the HPV vaccine.” They also found no change in the use of condoms.

However, this isn’t the only study to disprove the notion that the vaccine alters sexual behavior. A US study found that most girls who had been vaccinated reported that there was “a continued need for safer sexual behavior.” Another US study also reported no difference in the number of sexual partners and even found that vaccinated adolescent girls were more likely to report using condoms than unvaccinated girls.

If you’re deciding whether this vaccine is right for your children, I would say you can strike this concern off your list. Check out RealAge’s suggestions for talking to your kids about HPV. Additionally, Dr. Diane Harper, Dr. Lauren Streicher and I discussed several reasons for getting an HPV vaccine in our live webchat last week. Also, be sure to read up on the new potential vaccine that may one day keep existing HPV infections from turning into cervical cancer.