Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common and communicable Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). You may know this as venereal warts, which gives you a little insight into the most common symptoms. Often, the carrier has no symptoms, or the warts are on the cervix or throat and are very hard to see.
Most sexually active people will be infected with at least one type of HPV at some point. Usually, the body's immune system fights the virus and it resolves. HPV is highly communicable and very easy to get (and give)!
Why should my child have the HPV vaccine?
As you may already know, HPV is linked to cervical, throat, mouth, anal, and penile cancers and this is the reason for the development of a vaccine. The virus is transmitted via sexual contact and can lead to cancer. The vaccine is about cancer prevention, not sex. Because there is a vaccine available for everyone aged 9 to 26, you will probably need to chat with your kids about this STI very specifically.
Try to leave the "if they've been vaccinated for an STI this means they'll think they have permission to have sex" thoughts by the wayside. Kids don't interpret being vaccinated with permission to have sex. They'll have it at some point whether or not they have had the vaccine.
Following are some scripts you can use to talk to your kids. You can adapt them to suit your values and the ages of your kids.
Explain what it is...
"You need to have a vaccination for something called HPV. This is a virus you can get when you are older and it can turn into different kinds of cancer."
"You know how we've been talking about STIs? Well, there is one called HPV that can turn into different kinds of cancer. There's a vaccine for it, which is good news. However, it only protects from certain strains, so you can still get it, just not the cancer-causing kind."
"HPV is super easy to get. It's kind of like the common cold of the crotch — but gives you cancer. Bonus! Not."
Explain why they need the vaccine sooner, rather than later...
"I know it seems weird to get vaccinated for an STI when you are nowhere near being sexually active, but it's important to get it now, so you are protected later. This doesn't mean you don't have to use condoms when you have sex — they are still required. You are still at risk for all the other STIs out there."
Amy Lang, MA is a sexuality and parenting educator. Her goal is to help 1 million more kids grow up to be whole and healthy adults by teaching parents of all beliefs how to rock the sex talks.
Amy is the author of Dating Smarts: What Every Teen Needs To Know to Date, Relate or Wait, which is available now on Amazon.
Visit BirdsAndBeesAndKids.com to learn how to take the STING out of the Birds + Bees talks.