Did you know that not ever having sex cannot prevent girls and young women from being infected by the Human Pappillo Virus, HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer? Indeed, this verdict from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in the United States, US, appears to further reinforce the need to vaccinate school girls against cervical cancer before they hit puberty.
Lea Widdice, assistant professor of pediatrics and one of the authors of the study, says administering HPV vaccinations on girls between 11 and 12 years is not too early. “Even before kids have intercourse, they’re being exposed to HPV. Vaccination at 11 to 12 years old is not too early,” she noted.
About 260 young women between ages 13 to 21 who got their first HPV vaccination between 2008 and 2009 were involved in the study. Close to 80 per cent of study participants were African Americans and they were all interviewed as to whether they had ever had sexual intercourse, or whether they had ever had sexual contacts without intercourse. A swab was thereafter used to collect cell samples from the vagina and cervix either by doctors or the participants. The study result was revealing. Some 190 participants were sexually active and many had up to six sexual partners. Of the sexually active participants, about 70 per cent tested positive for HPV.
For the researchers, the more interesting part was that of the 69 participants who had never had sex, eight tested positive for HPV and two had HPV-16, a high-risk type of HPV. Most cervical cancers are believed to be caused by HPV-16 or HPV-18. HPV is sexually transmitted during vaginal and anal intercourse. But researchers say it can also be transmitted through genital-to-genital or hand to genital means.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, there are more than 40 strains of HPV. Garsdasil is known to protect against four strains while Cervarix, another vaccine, offers protection against two strains. Gardasil vaccines are available in public hospitals in Nigeria.