Contrary to religious right propaganda about impending orgies at the junior high school dance, a new study finds that teenage girls who get the vaccine to prevent HPV are not more likely to start having sex earlier or to have sex without condoms and other forms of birth control.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that giving teens the HPV vaccine, a preventative measure against future cervical cancers, does not encourage them to change their sexual behavior. Specifically, getting vaccinated for HPV did not lead young women to become sexually active or engage in risky sex.
The HPV vaccine helps protect against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can eventually lead to cervical cancer. After it was first introduced in 2006, HPV rates among teens were cut in half. Federal officials now recommend the round of shots for all U.S. girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26, as well as for boys and men between 11 and 21. But persistent scaremongering about the vaccine — and specifically, the notion that protecting teens from an STD will lead them to engage in risky sexual behavior — has dissuaded some parents from giving it to their kids.
However, the new study found no evidence to back up those fears. After surveying both sexually experienced and inexperienced young women between the ages of 13 and 24, researchers found that the “vast majority” of participants still believed it was important to practice safe sex after getting the HPV vaccine. Most did not erroneously believe that the shot protected them against a wider range of sexually transmitted infections. All in all, there was no association with getting the HPV vaccine and immediately altering sexual behavior.
In other words, reality still doesn’t line up with Puritan delusions. It never has.