HPV Vaccine Not Linked to Riskier Sexual Behaviors

February 10, 2014

The sexual behaviors and beliefs about HPV infection were unchanged among a group of teens and young women who were vaccinated against the virus, research shows.

Sexual behaviors of teen girls and young women were not changed by receiving the HPV vaccine, and getting the vaccine was not linked to a change in their beliefs about the disease, according to a study in Pediatrics.

The study found that most participants, who ranged in age from 13 to 21 years, thought it was still important to practice safer sex after vaccination, and most did not believe that HPV vaccination protected against other STDs. 

Pertinent Points:

- Perceptions of risk after HPV vaccination were not associated with riskier sexual behaviors in the 6-month period after vaccination.

- Clinicians should use this data to address parents’ concerns and thus increase HPV vaccination coverage, suggest the study authors.

"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," said author Jessica Kahn, MD, MPH, a physician in the division of adolescent medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in a news release.

The study involved having 339 young women complete questionnaires immediately after HPV vaccination and then at 2 months and 6 months postvaccine. The survey included demographic characteristics, knowledge and attitudes about HPV vaccination, risk perceptions, and sexual behaviors. In analyzing the data, the researchers stratified participants by sexual experience at baseline and age (13- to 15-year-olds and 16- to 21-year-olds).

Among sexually inexperienced participants (42.5%), baseline risk perceptions were not associated with subsequent sexual initiation, the authors reported. In addition, the age-stratified analyses showed that girls aged 16 to 21 who perceived, inappropriately, a lower risk for other STD were less likely to initiate sex (odds ratio [OR], 0.13; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.03–0.69).

Even among the sexually experienced participants (57.5%), baseline risk perceptions were not associated with subsequent number of sexual partners or condom use, the authors report.

"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," Kahn said.

References:

Mayhew A, Mullins TLK, Ding L, et al. Risk perceptions and subsequent sexual behaviors after HPV vaccination in adolescents. Pediatrics. February 2, 2014. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-2822.