Healthy Dose: HPV Vaccine Does Not Increase Sexual Activity in Youth, says Study

October 16, 2012

Researcher published a study in the journal Pediatrics with findings that girls who were given the HPV vaccine at age 11 were not more likely to engage in sexual behavior than girls who did not receive the vaccine. NYT on the study:

hypodermic needle IMG_7418Looking at a sample of nearly 1,400 girls, the researchers found no evidence that those who were vaccinated beginning around age 11 went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who were not vaccinated.

“We’re hopeful that once physicians see this, it will give them evidence that they can give to parents,” said Robert A. Bednarczyk, the lead author of the report and a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast, in Atlanta. “Hopefully when parents see this, it’ll be reassuring to them and we can start to overcome this barrier.”

HPV, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, can cause cancers of the cervix, anus and parts of the throat. Federal health officials began recommending in 2006 that girls be vaccinated as early as age 11 and last year made a similar recommendation for preadolescent boys. The idea is to immunize boys and girls before they become sexually active to maximize the vaccine’s protective effects.

According to research, nearly a third of children 14 to 19 years old are infected with HPV. But despite the federal recommendations, vaccination rates around the country remain low, in part because of concerns about side effects as well as fears the vaccine could make adolescents less wary of casual sex. In one study of parental attitudes toward the vaccine, Yale researchers found that concern about promiscuity was the single biggest factor in the decision not to vaccinate. (A report last year from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the government, found that that the HPV vaccine was generally safe.)

While there have been studies suggesting that the vaccine does not lower inhibitions in girls who receive it, most of them were based on self-reporting, which is not very reliable. So Dr. Bednarczyk and his colleagues looked instead at medical data collected by a large managed care organization.

They selected a group of 1,398 girls who were 11 or 12 in 2006 — roughly a third of whom had received the HPV vaccine — and followed them through 2010. The researchers then looked at what they considered markers of sexual activity, including pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing for or diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases.

Over all, in the time that the girls were followed, the researchers did not find any differences in these measures between the two groups.

In addition to the HPV vaccine, federal guidelines also call for 11-year-olds to be immunized against meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Dr. Elizabeth Alderman, president of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, said parents almost never object to those vaccines for their preadolescents. But she regularly encounters parents who balk at the HPV vaccine “because of the nature of what it’s preventing.”

“I’ll now be able to use this study as a piece of evidence to show them that it’s not going to give girls a license to sexual activity,” said Dr. Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

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Global Health and Development Beat

DengueReports continue to come from Delhi, India concerning the rising number of cases of dengue fever.

Gender Based Violence - A 15 year old girl in Timbuktu was given 60 lashes for talking to men, a punishment doled out by the Islamist extremists controlling the north of Mali.

EncephalitisSeven more people died of Encephalitis in Uttar Pradesh, India.

HIV/AIDS – A campaign to prevent tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS in road construction workers in Caprivi, Namabia was launched over the weekend.

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The Players

Unilever – Unveiled a new partnership with the Millennium Village Project that will support hygiene for 50,000 people in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.

USAID – Is reaching out to college students to contribute ideas on how to end modern slavery.

UN – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked International Day of Rural Women yesterday by calling attention discrimination against women.

EU – European Union Ambassador for Humanitarian Causes Tasha de Vasconcerous praised the work of Malawian President Banda for the country’s safe-motherhood campaign.

UNICEFMarked World Handwashing Day by noting the importance of the intervention and its relative simplicity.

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Spotlight on PSI

The Brand Channel blog provides an overview of Global Handwashing Day featuring the efforts by PSI and Unilever.

“We are not trying to make sustainability a separate agenda; we’re trying to make it a central agenda,” stated Unilever CMO Keith Weed. “We didn’t want it to be a couple of pages in a magazine but a commitment that the whole company could get behind.” Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan has already reached an estimated 50 million residents of Africa and South Asia with the message to soap up over the past two years.

This Global Handwashing Day, users are being asked to pledge on Lifebuoy’s Facebook page and donate at PSI.org. Just $10 will help educate 20 children about the importance of handwashing and contribute to the (UN’s 2015) Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.

“We look at the world through a lens, which we call VUCA, which stands for ‘Volatile, Unstable, Complex, and Ambiguous,'” said Weed. “So you can say, ‘It’s a very tough world,’ or you can say, ‘It’s a world that’s changing fast, and we can help consumers navigate through it.'”

“The big issues the world is facing require new approaches, new business models and new partnerships. Responsible businesses must take a more active leadership role,” stated Paul Polman, Unilever CEO. “It is unacceptable that two million children die every year from infectious diseases when we have easy and cheap lifesaving solutions, such as handwashing with soap, readily available.”

That’s why Unilever recently released a Facebook and mobile app designed to facilitate charitable giving, called Waterworks, and recently signed on as a major partner of UNICEF’s Every Woman Every Child public health campaign via its foundation.

And in a separate corporate citizenship effort in Africa, Unilever Ghana is the latest African country to participate in Ideatrophy, the company’s ‘out of the classroom’ initiative aimed at helping the upcoming generation of African entrepreneurs and leveraging laptops, galaxy tabs and mobile phones. The goal is to inspire creativity and strategy and ultimately enable them as graduates to start their own businesses.

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Buzzing in the Blogs

The Center for Global Development has a brand new series that delves into the Global Fund. Experts will offer ideas and suggestions as to how to improve the important body. Amanda Glassman introduces the series:

When the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was created in 2002, it was intended to combat the global burden of these diseases while simultaneously delivering aid in new, innovative ways. In 2012, an increasingly austere budget climate has added pressure for the Global Fund to explore new approaches to global health financing and generate better “value for money”—a top concern to global health donors, who want the biggest bang for their buck in terms of lives saved and epidemiological progress. To respond to these needs, the Global Fund is in the process of overhauling its operations and reshaping its funding model, while also seeking to appoint a new Executive Director.

In a new online forum, we have asked prominent thinkers and practitioners what reforms the Global Fund should prioritize and how it should best fulfill its mandate of improving the way development aid is managed in addition to advancing the fight against the three diseases as its Board considers new policies and its new Executive Director prepares to takes office. Our initial posts come from Erin Hohlfelder (Policy Director, Global Health at ONE), Anders Nordström (Ambassador for Global Health at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs), and Prashant Yadav (Director of Healthcare Research at the William Davidson Institute, University of Michigan). We will continue to add new perspectives in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out on the Global Health Policy Blog and the forum’s homepage for updates.

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Capital Events

Tuesday

6:00 PM – What Will a Gender-Equal World Look Like? – Young Professionals in FP

6:00 PM – Waging War on Corruption – Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power

Wednesday

3:00 PM – Malaria: History, Past Decade’s Achievements, and Future Priorities – CSIS

5:30 PM – Rio + 20: The Path Forward – SAIS

Thursday

9:00 AM – Globalization and Health Equity Policy: A Framework for 21st Century Haiti

5:30 PM – Human Rights Film Series: Granito: How to Nail a Dictator – AU Law

Friday

9:00 AM – Globalization and Health Equity Policy: A Framework for 21st Century Haiti

11:00 AM – Rethinking Conflict Resolution and Reforms in Northern Nigeria – SAIS

11:00 AM – Distinguished Lecture by Charles P. Friedman: Learning Health System

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By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy

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