Art of Woman

Human Papillomavirus vaccine and virginity pledges

Last week in "The Canberra Times" there was an article about mothers refusing to give their daughters the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. The vaccine protects against Human Papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer. Approximately 20% of mothers believed that the vaccine would induce their daughters to become promiscuous. It is very sad that even in this age of high technology and scientific advances, 20% of the population confuses health with morals.

Surveys of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy rates done on young people who vowed abstinence interestingly show they have similar instances of sexually transmitted diseases as the control group who did not vow abstinence. The explanation was that teens vowing abstinence may have been practicing manual, oral or anal sex in order to remain technically virgin, but were not practicing safe sex. These other sexual activities can transmit sexual diseases.

Vaccinations are an insurance to protect against a bad event happening. To suggest that vaccines will induce bad behaviour is like saying that people who receive a Tetanus vaccine will go and hammer a rusty nail into their foot! NO. But if they accidently tread on a rusty nail, they are protected from Tetanus. It is a health issue.

It is also like seat belts in a car. Seat belts have been compulsory in Australia for decades. We wear them to protect ourselves in the event of an accident. People drive because they want to go somewhere. There is no evidence that people drive more often or become worse drivers in cars with seat belts. It is a safety issue.

Most people including teens participate in sexual activities because they are in a relationship. They do not think about their health status at the height of passion. Therefore any safe sex practices, including vaccinations, will reduce their exposure to harm. Vaccinations and safe sex practices are health issues.

Virginity pledges and abstinence promotion is a good thing and aims to empower teens to responsible sexual relationships. Problems arise when abstinence promotion comes without education on sexual health, disease protection and contraception. We all need sexual health because we all have sex organs.