For National Sexual Health Month, we want to talk about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection among both women and men. There are many different types of HPV. While some are harmless, others can lead to cancer in the cervix, genital warts, or infections of the mouth and throat. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer.
How do I get HPV?
HPV is spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex with an infected partner. There are often no symptoms, so you may not even know if you are infected.
Can I prevent HPV and cervical cancer?
Yes! The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that are most likely to lead to cervical cancer and genital warts. The vaccine, which is given as a series of 3 injections over 6 months, has been tested to be safe and effective, with no serious side effects. The HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and boys ages 11 or 12. It may be given starting at age 9, and even if you were not vaccinated as a child, you can still receive the vaccine until age 26. To learn more about the HPV vaccine, check out this great info-sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Why do children need this vaccine when they are so young?
The HPV vaccine is more effective when given to girls and boys before they start having sex and are potentially exposed to HPV. This gives them more time to build up protection from HPV infection.
Should boys also get vaccinated?
Yes! Boys are also at risk for HPV infection and can and should be vaccinated. Boys can receive the HPV vaccine until the age of 26, if they were not previously vaccinated.
Talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor for more information about the vaccine. If your child is a patient of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, make an appointment to have your child vaccinated today.
To learn more about sexual health, you can check out some of our resources online. You can view them here.
Written by Dr. Carolyn Chang.
Dr. Carolyn Chang is a pediatrician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She received her medical degree from Washington University, and completed her residency training from Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. Dr. Chang is certified through the American Board of Pediatrics.