Prevent HPV with Vaccination and Sexual Education

HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States (Human Papilloma Virus, 2013).  What is HPV? HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus.  HPV is a virus that is sexually transmitted.  So why is HPV such a concern?  Almost all sexually active Americans will have HPV at some point in their lives. 

Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with the virus.  It affects both men and women.  In women, if left untreated it can lead to cervical cancer, and in men, the virus can cause cancers of the anus, penis, mouth, and throat (HPV, 2013).  Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV.

 There are over 100 types of HPV.  About 60 of these types are responsible for causing warts and the other 40 are sexually transmitted.  The two high-risk strains of HPV are 16 and 18.  These two strains cause about 70 pecent of cervical cancers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).  Abstinence is the only way to completely eliminate the HPV virus.  Vaccination is a promising way to prevent the virus.  Having sex at an early age or having multiple sex partners are both risk factors for contracting the virus.  As parents, it is important to talk to your children about sexual education and get them vaccinated against this virus. 

The most common age for first engaging in sexual activity is the age of 17 in the United States (Guttmacher Institute, 2014).   It is important for parents to provide safe sex information to their children starting at a young age.  Make them aware of the risks of becoming sexually active, such as sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and emotional turmoil.  Have open communication between your child and yourself.  Make sure to do your homework as well.  Educate yourself with information about sex and safe sex that may become a question.  Be a good listener, be honest, and be accepting of the child’s opinion.  How to get started? Keep it a casual conversation, maintain eye contact, and use personal experience (State Government of Victoria, 2014). 

For parents, it is important to have both your sons and daughters vaccinated against HPV.  The vaccine is most effective when it is administered prior to the initiation of sexual behavior.  This enables the child to develop immunity prior to engaging in sexual activity.  There are two vaccines available by the FDA, Gardasil and Cervarix (CDC, 2013).  Gardasil can be used in both males and females ages 9-26.  Gardasil protects against the high-risk strains, 16 and 18, and the low-grade strains, 6 and 11.  Gardasil helps protect against 90 percent of genital warts, 70 percent of vaginal cancers, and 50 percent of vulvar cancers (Merck, Sharp, & Dohme, 2013).  Cervarix is only for females, and it protects against HPV 16 and 18.  It can be given to females ages 9-26.  The vaccine is a series of three shots given over six months.  Immunity is not reached until all three shots are received (Glaxo, Smith, & Kine, 2012). 

Sit down with your child today and talk about prevention of HPV and safe sex.  Ask your healthcare provider today on how to start the series of vaccinations to prevent your child from becoming HPV positive.  Help them with their health for the future.  Prevention is the key to health.  Education and immunizations are number one for the prevention of disease. 

Karah Peters, Family Nurse Practitioner Student, Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Human papilloma virus facts. Retrieved from
  • Glaxo, Smith, & Kine (2012).  Cervarix vaccination.  Retrieved from
  • Guttmacher Institue (2014). American teens' sexual and reproductive health. Retrieved from
  • Merck, Sharp, & Dohme (2013). About gardasil. Retrieved from
  • State Government of Victoria (2014). Sex education, tips for parents. Retrieved from