I'd like to suggest one small edit to Reuters health and science reporter Julie Steenhuysen's otherwise commendable article on young people's misunderstanding of HPV vaccine protection, based on one of her own previous, equally commendable article on HPV vaccine recommendations for boys.
Some adolescent girls adolescents who get the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer wrongly think they no longer need to practice safe sex, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, shows the need for better education about the vaccines and their limitations.
Merck's Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix vaccines protect against strains of the humanpapilloma virus or HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against some strains of the virus that cause genital warts.
But neither vaccine can prevent other forms of sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea or human immunodeficiency virus or HIV that causes AIDS.
And HPV vaccines can only prevent HPV infections; they do not treat active infections.
Most girls young people who get the vaccine know its limitations, the researchers said, but the vaccines are recommended for all girls young people aged 11 to 12, and overestimating their effect could increase a young woman's person's risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases.
Given all the hype, and given how recently the vaccine has been recommended for boys it's understandable that people are still thinking mostly in terms of HPV vaccines and girls. But the fact remains that boys as well as girls are at risk of HPV-related cancers (it's linked to penile, throat, and rectal cancer, for instance.) And it further remains the fact that (statistically speaking) by definition boys are as likely to receive HPV and other STIs from girls as girls are likely to receive them from boys. That's sort of how heterosexual disease transmission works.
Finally, call me a rebel here but while I understand the researchers surveyed only adolescent girls and so it would have been inappropriate for them to extrapolate... it's a safe bet that a comparable survey of adolescent boys would find they're at least as likely to make the same mistake.
So if it was me, while composing educational outreach materials on the matter I'd drop the adolescent boys or adolescent girls language and just make sure I was trying to reach adolescents, period.