No matter how many concerned parents have warned that sex education will lead to teens having more sex, science always says otherwise. The same is true for access to birth control. And, according to the latest study (which confirms results from a similar study done in 2015), promoting the HPV vaccine to this generation, you guessed it, doesn’t lead to more sex.
HPV, one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, has been strongly linked to a number of cancers, including those attacking the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus, along with some forms of oral cancer.
Even though the vaccine has been found to prevent some forms of the virus and the following cancer – and is recommended by the CDC – fewer than half of girls (and even fewer boys) currently receive the full series of shots. This is due to prevailing (inaccurate) distrust of vaccines, but also a worry among some people that preventing an STD could lead to riskier sexual behavior among teenagers.
The most recent study, which compared teens in states with HPV vaccination promotion to teens in states without promotions, was recently published in the scientific journal Pediatrics. It compared the two lists of teenagers to the results of a multi-year survey of risky teen behavior, and found no difference in teens’ decisions and behavior based on the state they reside in.
Basically, kids are going to engage in sex – risky and otherwise – regardless of whether we protect them against cancer.
“Concern that legislation will increase risky adolescent sexual behaviors should not be used when deciding to pass HPV legislation,” concluded the study.
Currently 23 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation related to the promotion of the HPV vaccine. The specifics vary from in-school awareness campaigns to programs that require insurance companies to cover the cost of the shots.
The study’s primary author, Erin Cook, told PBS that “the big takeaway is that the passage of legislation regarding HPV didn’t seem to be associated with any changes in adolescent sexual behaviors in the sample of states we were able to look at.”
Worry not, parents. You can protect your child from all sorts of cancer while being assured that the shots won’t cause them to engage in any promiscuous behaviors.
At least, no more than usual.