US girls decide to become less slutty, wash their hands, or get vaccinated? You tell me.

The NY Times is reporting a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases where it is reported that the prevalence of HPV infection in girls ages 14 to 19 is half of what it was in 2006. So what happened? Did these girls decide to be “less slutty“? Did hygiene and sanitation finally make their way to these girls’ vaginas? No.

What happened was that anti-HPV vaccines came online in 2006, and lots of girls are getting them. Lots, but not as many as we need to sustain this decrease. We’re far behind other countries in that respect. According to CDC:

“This report shows that HPV vaccine works well, and the report should be a wake-up call to our nation to protect the next generation by increasing HPV vaccination rates,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Unfortunately only one third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine.  Countries such as Rwanda have vaccinated more than 80 percent of their teen girls. Our low vaccination rates represent 50,000 preventable tragedies – 50,000 girls alive today will develop cervical cancer over their lifetime that would have been prevented if we reach 80 percent vaccination rates.  For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes.”

Most of you will know that HPV vaccine continues to be demonized, against all the evidence, and anti-vaccine people keep blaming deaths and disabilities on it. A presidential candidate fueled the fire based on similar misconceptions about the vaccine. But, guess what? The evidence keeps coming in. The vaccine is safe, effective, and it is cutting infections in half. Now, we need to replicate these findings in those highly-vaccinated countries to put yet another nail in the coffin of the HPV vaccine conspiracy.

8 thoughts on “US girls decide to become less slutty, wash their hands, or get vaccinated? You tell me.

  1. What’s interesting is that infection rate has fallen so much even with limited vaccine coverage. This suggests to me that the level of coverage necessary to start producing herd immunity against HPV is much lower than it is for, say, measles. Which makes sense. Under the right (wrong) circumstances, a single patient can infect dozens of people with measles in one day. With an STD, it should be easier to break a chain of transmission, since most people do NOT have dozens of partners in a short period of time, and many have only a few partners in a lifetime.

  2. “Obviously” Reuben, the girls have become less slutty.

    Pediatrics. 2009 Jan;123(1):e110-20. doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-0407.
    Patient teenagers? A comparison of the sexual behavior of virginity pledgers and matched nonpledgers.
    Rosenbaum JE.

    Health Policy PhD Program, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

    The US government spends more than $200 million annually on abstinence-promotion programs, including virginity pledges. This study compares the sexual activity of adolescent virginity pledgers with matched nonpledgers by using more robust methods than past research.


    The subjects for this study were National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health respondents, a nationally representative sample of middle and high school students who, when surveyed in 1995, had never had sex or taken a virginity pledge and who were >15 years of age (n = 3440). Adolescents who reported taking a virginity pledge on the 1996 survey (n = 289) were matched with nonpledgers (n = 645) by using exact and nearest-neighbor matching within propensity score calipers on factors including prepledge religiosity and attitudes toward sex and birth control. Pledgers and matched nonpledgers were compared 5 years after the pledge on self-reported sexual behaviors and positive test results for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis, and safe sex outside of marriage by use of birth control and condoms in the past year and at last sex.


    Five years after the pledge, 82% of pledgers denied having ever pledged. Pledgers and matched nonpledgers did not differ in premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and anal and oral sex variables. Pledgers had 0.1 fewer past-year partners but did not differ in lifetime sexual partners and age of first sex. Fewer pledgers than matched nonpledgers used birth control and condoms in the past year and birth control at last sex.


    The sexual behavior of virginity pledgers does not differ from that of closely matched nonpledgers, and pledgers are less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage. Virginity pledges may not affect sexual behavior but may decrease the likelihood of taking precautions during sex. Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially virginity pledgers.

    • Replying here as well as on your blog:

      I guess I’m confused about what you find insulting. Perhaps you dislike the word “slut” and what its connotation is. I can accept that. And yes, I think Reuben could have chosen a better word, since “slut” is almost always aimed at girls/women.

      But the comparison holds true: since studies have shown the frequency and age that teens are having sex really hasn’t changed, HPV isn’t really affected by hygiene or sanitation, then the rates of HPV dropping dramatically have to be due to the vaccine.

      • Actually, in this context, to make a point, the word should be used.
        It jars one’s attention away from talking points and to what is being said.
        That the term is derogatory in some contexts does not mean it is always so, it raises the point of sexual activity continuing, regardless of abstinence training, oaths, etc and the fact that girls and boys will be girls and boys, complete with their raging hormones.

        As you said though, the declining rate of HPV infection matches the use of HPV vaccine in children quite nicely. And over the course of upcoming years, we should also see a significant decline in cervical cancer.

        • Correct. I used the word to show you, the readers, the sentiments of those who don’t want this vaccine to be given. They have openly said and underhandedly stated that the vaccine would make girls act slutty. This is obviously not the case, and every woman young and old who exercises her God-given right to be sexually active should not be labeled a slut nor her behavior slutty.

  3. About the only vaguely valid claim against the vast and overwhelming majority of our vaccines is that one can have a severe allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine.
    That said, this is true of every food, drink, medicine, ointment, makeup, etc.
    If we abandon all items that can potentially cause an allergic reaction, we’d have no medicines, foods, drinks, ointments, oils, makeup products, well, anything one touches, eats, drinks, smells or is even near.
    That sounds like a laudable goal for the antivaxer. I strongly suggest that they abandon all food products, drinks and water as an example of healthy living.

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