Counseling about the HPV vaccine: desexualize, educate, and advocate

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2013 Aug;26(4):243-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2013.04.002.


Information is provided for clinicians who treat adolescents and adult women to use when counseling patients about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. A literature search was done to determine: (1) reasons for refusal of the vaccine, including cost and concerns that immunization against HPV will lead to promiscuity; (2) potential for non-sexual transmission of HPV; (3) non-genital locations of HPV; (4) non-genital cancers associated with HPV. Vaccines for Children Program and the Affordable Care Act eliminate many costs.Neither biological nor behavioral evidence supports the idea that sexual behavior changes after immunization. HPV is transmitted from person to person by non-sexual routes including mother to child at birth and apparently by touch after birth. HPV is persistent in the environment, including medical environments. It has been found on apparently sterilized instruments used in vaginal exams. Pathogenic HPV has been recovered from breast tissue, sinonasal areas, and nipples as well as from hair follicles on arms, legs, scalps, eyebrows, and pubic hair. Pathogenic HPV was found in 6.5% of the oral cavities of a random sample of Americans. HPV is known to cause anal and oral cancers. It has also been associated with skin cancers, breast tumors, and prostate cancers. It is not known if the vaccine is protective against these cancers, but it is useful to educate about these other routes of transmission and non-genital HPV linked cancers so that patients/parents do not just focus on the sexual nature of the human papillomavirus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines*
  • Parents
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Young Adult


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines