Archive for HPV vaccine

I got my first shot of the Gardasil vaccine about a month ago. I haven’t had sex before. I’m going to get my 3rd shot in 5 months…

Can I have protected sex before I get my 3rd shot, or is it not worth the risk?

First of all, it’s great that you’re taking charge of your sexual health!

Gardasil is a vaccine to protect you from HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus.  Gardasil is approved for girls and women, and men and boys ages 9-26 years old. It is given in a series of three shots. Gardasil covers types 6,11,16,18 — the strains of HPV which account for about 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts.

Know that there is risk in everything that you do. Abstinence is the only way to 100% prevent STIs and pregnancy. Using condoms and dental dams will help to reduce your risk of contracting an STI.

In the end, we can’t really advise you to wait or not to wait, but we can educate you on the risks and benefits. If you wait to have any type of sexual interaction until after you complete the series, know that you’ll be 70% protected you from the high risk strains of HPV (the ones that can lead to cervical caner), and 90% protected from lower risk strains like genital warts.

Even after you’ve completed the series though, Teen Clinic recommends using condoms and dental dams every time to help prevent STIs (especially because Gardasil is only helping protect you from HPV), and to think about using a birth control method to help prevent unplanned pregnancy.

I just found out that I have HPV. Can HPV be spread if I perform oral sex on a girl or a boy? Also, I need to find out which type of HPV it is but I can’t go to my normal doctor…

… I tried to get an appointment with Teen Clinic to get an exam but I was told I had to be 21. I am 18; is there any way around this?

Great question! HPV, or the Human Papillomavirus, is an infection spread through skin to skin contact. It can cause abnormal cell growth, including genital warts and some cancers. While there are more than 100 different types of HPV, about forty affect the genitals. Some studies suggest that as many as three-quarters of people in the United States have been infected with at least one type of HPV! However, in 90% of cases, HPV clears naturally from the body within two years. This is especially true for young people, whose immune systems are usually very strong.

For this reason, the most up-to-date medical guidelines suggest that people get their first pap test at age 21. A pap test is when a doctor takes a sample of cells from the cervix to make sure they are growing normally.  (When they are growing abnormally, it is often a sign of HPV.) This is different from a pelvic exam, which is when a doctor physically examines the genital area to make sure it is healthy. During a pelvic exam, a doctor may take samples of fluid to test a person for STIs or other infections.  A doctor could also diagnose or treat HPV-caused genital warts during a pelvic exam. At Teen Clinic, you can make an appointment for a pelvic exam. However, you won’t be able to get a pap test because it is not medically necessary at your age.

If a doctor has diagnosed you with HPV, it might be helpful to make an appointment at Teen Clinic to talk to a provider. Teen Clinic is a safe, confidential place where young people can get easy-to-understand information. It’s also helpful to know that HPV spreads through genital to genital contact or genital to mouth contact. While performing oral sex can put you at risk for contracting HPV orally, it is still unknown whether or not HPV can spread from a person’s mouth onto someone else’s genitals.  Know that having genital HPV does not automatically mean that you also have oral HPV.

Teen Clinic recommends using condoms and dental dams 100% to reduce the risk of transmitting HPV to others. This will also reduce your risk for contracting other types of HPV! We also recommend receiving the Gardasil vaccine, which can prevent the four most dangerous types of HPV if you do not already have them. (This is low-cost at Teen Clinic!) And remember—the best way to support your immune system in fighting HPV is to get plenty of sleep, drink water, eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly, and manage any stress in your life. Thanks for asking this very important question!

If I got the Gardasil shot when I was younger, could I still get gonorrhea?

Yep! Gardasil is the vaccine that prevents the most common forms of HPV (the Human Papillomavirus). HPV is a viral STI that spreads through skin to skin contact. It can cause abnormal cell growth, including genital warts and some kinds of cancer.  While it’s awesome that you got this vaccine, know that you’re not protected against all sexually transmitted infections—just the most common strains of HPV!

Gonorrhea is a bacterial STI spread through sexual fluids. There is always a risk of gonorrhea if you choose to be sexually active, but your highest risk is through unprotected vaginal intercourse. Teen Clinic recommends using condoms 100%, and getting tested after any new partners. You can get checked for genital gonorrhea on a walk-in basis at Teen Clinic; all you have to do is leave a urine sample.  It’s important to know that gonorrhea can also be spread from the sexual fluids into the throat; be sure to use condoms during oral sex, and see a medical professional if you are ever experiencing strep-like symptoms.

Learn more about specific sexually transmitted infections here.

Is your clinic only for girls, or can boys go there to get tested for an STI too?

What a great question! Teen Clinic offers free or low-cost, confidential care to everyone under 20, whether male, female, or intersex. If you are under 18, all of your services at Teen Clinic will be free. But if you are 18 or 19, there may be a small flat fee for your services based on your income.

On a walk-in basis, males can get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, access our free monthly HIV testing, or pick up Plan B for a female partner. Males should make an appointment if they are experiencing the symptoms of an infection or if they want to receive Gardasil (the HPV vaccine). And, of course, males are always welcome to stop by Teen Clinic to grab a handful of condoms!  Teen Clinic can also be a resource for questions about sexuality, how to use a condom, or talking to your parents about sex.

We often think of females when we think of sexual health, but birth control and STI-related services are just as important for males!  Thanks for taking the initiative to take care of your health, and spread the word!