Pregnancy

One More Reason To Vaccinate: Teens Can Get HPV Without Having Sex

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For all of those parents who have been avoiding the HPV vaccine because their precious little one is never going to take off her chastity belt until she’s married, researchers have a new study that you might want to pay attention to. In a study conducted at a clinic in Cincinnati, 11.6% of teenage girls and young women who had never had sex before were still infected in at least one strain of the HPV virus. That’s right, they hadn’t had sex, but they still had the disease.

Although most sexually transmitted diseases are spread through intercourse, any genital-to-genital or hand-to-genital contact can transmit HPV. Yes guys, that means that a single incident getting handsy while canoodling in a basement somewhere could lead to a serious disease for teens. A disease that can cause cervical cancer and infertility.

The percentage found in this study was surprisingly high, even to those who conducted the research. And they warned that the research needed to be duplicated in different areas and with larger sample sizes. But it still didn’t change the message of the study.

“Even before kids have intercourse,they’re being exposed to HPV,” said study researcher Lea Widdice, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “Vaccination at 11 to 12 years old is not too early,” Widdice said. It’s recommended by most physicians that both boys and girls receive the vaccine between the ages 11 and 12.

One of the key arguments against the HPV vaccine was that it encouraged young girls to be promiscuous at an early age. That having the vaccine somehow communicated that sex for teens was okay. But as this study shows, kids don’t even have to be having sex to contract the virus. Girls are contracting it before they technically give up their “v-card” at all.

The fact is, our kids don’t need us ignoring the idea of them having sex until we think they’re ready. They don’t need parents to attempt to shelter them. They need us to help prepare them for sex and support them, so that they’re able to make their own choice confidently, when the time is right for them. One way of preparing your teens is to help protect them against STDs, and to teach them about the dangers of those infections. That’s what the HPV vaccine does.

(Photo: itsmejust/Shutterstock)