Why Teens Have Sex (Hint: It’s Not About Vaccines)
At leastِ one ofِ the arguments usedِ byِ conservative Republican presidential candidates toِ criticize Texas Gov.
Rick Perry’s attempt toِ mandate thatِ girls getِ vaccinated againstِ the sexually transmitted infection HPV isِ wrong, experts say.
Perry’s 2007 attempt toِ mandate theِ vaccine inِ Texas girls failed, inِ large part becauseِ conservative groups argued thatِ inoculating girls againstِ human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted infection thatِ canِ lead toِ cervical cancer, mightِ send theِ message thatِ teen sex isِ okay.
It hasn’t had the undesired effect yet, he said.
The Gardasil vaccine protects againstِ two strains ofِ HPV thatِ causeِ most genital warts andِ two strains thatِ causeِ most cases ofِ cervical cancer, a disease thatِ kills aboutِ 4,000 women inِ the United States a year, according toِ theِ Centers forِ Disease Control andِ Prevention (CDC).
In 2007, Perry issued anِ executive order mandating theِ vaccine forِ Texas schoolgirls, anِ order thatِ included anِ opt-out forِ parents whoِ wereِ opposed toِ vaccinating theirِ children.
Perry wasِ criticized forِ financial ties toِ Merck andِ by social conservative groups whoِ felt thatِ the vaccine wouldِ encourage teen sex.
Vaccines and teen sex
Parents oftenِ underestimate theِ extent toِ which theirِ teenagers areِ sexually active, studies show, whichِ mayِ explain someِ ofِ the resistance toِ theِ vaccine: If youِ believeِ that yourِ child willِ notِ haveِ sex asِ a teen, andِ will neverِ sleep withِ anِ HPV carrier, youِ mayِ beِ unmotivated toِ getِ them theِ vaccine.
A 2008 study inِ the Journal ofِ Adolescent Health asked almost 700 moms andِ teen girls inِ the United Kingdom aboutِ whether theyِ thought HPV vaccination wouldِ change teenagers’ approach toِ sex.
About a quarter ofِ mothers andِ a thirdِ ofِ adolescent girls saidِ they thought gettingِ the vaccine wouldِ makeِ girls inِ general moreِ likelyِ to haveِ sex, andِ to doِ so withoutِ protection.
While thereِ areِ no studies investigating vaccinated andِ unvaccinated teens’ actual behaviors, thereِ isِ a parallel line ofِ research onِ the effect ofِ making condoms freely availableِ to teenagers.
Those studies haveِ turned upِ noِ evidence thatِ condom availability increases sexual activity.
A 1999 study published inِ the American Journal ofِ Public Health foundِ that inِ Seattle schools thatِ instituted free condom programs, theِ percentage ofِ high school students whoِ hadِ everِ had sex remained stable afterِ the programs began, andِ the percentage ofِ currentlyِ sexually active students actuallyِ declined slightly.