Study: Beliefs about HPV vaccine do not lead to initiation of sex or risky sexual behavior

CINCINNATI -- Do teen girls and young women’s beliefs about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine lead them to unsafe sexual behaviors?

A study conducted by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center says no.

Dr. Jessica Kahn, a physician in the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s, studied sexually experienced and inexperienced young teenage girls and women between the ages of 13 and 21.

Kahn obtained more than 300 questionnaires that looked at demographics, knowledge and attitudes about the HPV vaccine, beliefs about risk for acquiring an STI other than HPV after vaccination, beliefs about the need for safer sexual behaviors after vaccination and sexual behaviors.

The specific sexual behaviors Kahn looked at included sexual initiation among those who were sexually inexperienced at the time of vaccination, number of sexual partners and having sexual intercourse without a condom among those who were sexually experienced at the time of vaccination.

The results show teen girls and young women’s beliefs regarding the HPV vaccine, whether their beliefs are accurate or inaccurate, are not associated with ensuing sexual behaviors over the six months after they were vaccinated.

The girls who participated in the study didn’t change their behavior whether they thought safer sex was less important or just as important after vaccination, or whether they thought the vaccine did or did not decrease the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) other than HPV, according to Kahn.

The majority of those studied thought it was still important to practice safer sex after vaccination, and most did not believe that HPV vaccination protected against other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

“We hope this study reassures parents, and thus improves HPV vaccination rates, which in turn will reduce rates of cervical and other cancers that can result from HPV infection,” says Jessica Kahn, MD, a physician in the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children’s.

HPV is a common STI that affects 7.5 million girls and young women in the United States between the ages of 14 and 24. 

“Data demonstrating that HPV vaccination does not lead to riskier behaviors will allow clinicians to provide accurate, evidence-based information to address the concerns of parents and thereby increase vaccination rates,” says Dr. Kahn.

To access the full study, CLICK HERE.

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