Nicole Giacopelli, 17, gets a shot of HPV vaccine Gardasil from her pediatrician,… (Mike Derer / Associated…)
Some girls may be more likely to overestimate the protection they receive from the HPV vaccine, new research shows.
Human papillomaviris, the most common sexually transmitted infection, can infect the genital areas of men and women, cause genital warts and raise the risk of cervical cancer. The new study, published this week by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, looked at the perception of HPV risk among a population of 339 girls between age 13 and 21. At an average age of 16.8 years, 57.5% of these girls were sexually experienced, and most of them reported "continued need" to practice safe sex.
However, a good 23.6% appeared to believe mistakenly that their risk of other sexually transmitted diseases was also lower -- even though the HPV vaccine does not protect against the rest of the pantheon of such diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea and syphilis.
On the bright side, the vast majority of surveyed girls believed in the need for safer sexual behaviors (only 3.8% perceived the need for safer practices at below a five on a 1-to-10 scale).
The researchers found that certain factors -- lower knowledge of HPV or the vaccine; less concern about infection; and not using a condom the last time they had sex with a man -- correlated with a girl's perception of less need for safer sex behaviors.
Surprisingly, getting information from teachers was a factor as well. So was a mother getting information from a physician.
"Providers may be giving detailed counseling about vaccine effectiveness, which mothers may have difficulty understanding or conveying to their daughters," the researchers hypothesize. "Alternatively, providers may be presenting overly simplistic messages about HPV vaccine efficacy or may not be communicating the need for continued safer sexual behaviors after receipt of the vaccine. This, in turn, may lead girls to feel more protected by the vaccine."
For more information about HPV, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet.
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