Can STDs Be Prevented With Vaccines?
Currently the most effective way of preventing STDs is through monogamous relationships and practicing safe sex. However, progress is being made in the scientific world in the area of vaccines to prevent STDs.
Scientists are urgently searching for a vaccine to prevent the spread of HIV. With the AIDS related death toll having risen to over 25 million since 1981, it is by far the most problematic of all the STDs.
The advancement of vaccines against STDs is not without controversy. There are some conservatives who feel that these vaccines would have a negative impact on sexual activity.
What Vaccines Are Available Against STDs?
Hepatitis B - the federal centers for disease control and prevention recommends that all teenagers between the age of eleven and fifteen receive the Hepatitis B vaccine. The Hepatitis B disease is not specifically a sexually transmitted disease. Hepatitis can be passed from a mother to her baby during birth or through the sharing of dirty needles. However, the majority of cases involve infection via unprotected sex.
Gardasil - a new vaccine, has emerged in the fight against human papillomavirus (HPV) which is a very common STD. There are more than 40 types of HPV. Some cause no symptoms and sufferers don't realize that they have it while other types cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
The new vaccine aims to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases that are caused by four specific types of HPV. These four types account for 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts.
Who Should Receive the HPV Vaccine?
Ideally, females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active. Once they are sexually active there is a chance that they have already been exposed to one of the four HPV types that the vaccine protects against. While it is still worth having the vaccine in this instance, it is known to be less effective.
The vaccine is recommended for girls and women between the ages of eleven and twenty six. In some states in America the vaccine is recommended for girls as young as nine. There is also a move by ten US states to make the vaccine mandatory.
Scientists are currently expanding the research on the efficacy of the vaccine for women over the age of 26.
Why Are These Vaccines Controversial?
Supporters of the HPV vaccine say that it is a positive step towards preventing cervical cancer. However critics argue that vaccinating girls against sexually transmitted diseases before they are sexually active is morally wrong. They feel it raises issues of sexual activity in children who are too young to understand the implications. Those in the conservative camp also feel that offering vaccines against STDs will detract from individuals needs to be personally responsible for their own sexual activity.