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Does the HPV vaccine mean it's safe to have unprotected sex?

Wednesday 11 January, 2012 by Amy

A new study published in the US has indicated some teenage girls wrongly assume their risk of contracting all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is greatly reduced after having the HPV vaccine.

Gardasil, the HPV vaccine available in Australia as part of the school-based National Immunisation Program, protects against four strains of HPV that cause around 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts. It does not protect against any other STI, nor does it treat any pre-existing HPV infection.

Although the survey was limited to one clinic, it does highlight the need for comprehensive education about HPV and Gardasil for young girls and their parents.

Cancer Council Victoria is currently producing a new online video resource directly targeting 12-13 year old girls that will hopefully help fill the information void and clear up some common misconceptions. This new resource will be officially launched later this month, but in the meantime we recommend anyone with questions to visit the website www.cervicalcancervaccine.org.au or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.

It is vitally important that all girls practice safe sex even after the HPV vaccine to reduce their risk of pregnancy and STIs. Once girls turn 18 or two years after they become sexually active (whichever comes later) they need to start having regular Pap tests to ensure they have maximum protection against cervical cancer.

Although the HPV vaccine is a huge advancement in preventative health, it does not mean the end of safe sex, so use a condom people!

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