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Can I have sex while I'm receiving the Gardasil vaccination series?

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Jill asks:

I am about to be vaccinated for HPV, and was wondering if I could be sexually active during the 6 month period that I am being treated for the virus? I am a virgin and want to have sex with my boyfriend, who is also a virgin but I have heard various things from different people and am apprehensive about the whole situation. I have heard that the vaccine is "more effective" if you do not have sex during the 6 month period you are receiving the shot; however, I have also that heard it doesn't matter if you do or not from other sources. I want to have sex but I don't know if it is safe or not. Please help!

Susie replies:

Have you EVER had any sexual contact including sexual intercourse and dry sex with direct genital contact? And have you never been raped or experienced a sexual assault that involved genitals coming in direct contact? If you have NEVER EVER NEVER experienced any of these things, then you are the ideal candidate for Gardasil because there is no chance that you would already have a strain of genital HPV.

If you are both virgins at the moment, then it is best if you totally abstained from genital contact until you have received all three shots of Gardasil. That way you have no risk of acquiring the four strains of HPV it protects against.

However if you have already had some genital contact, it makes little difference if you continue doing that while you are receiving the shots. That is because you have already been exposed to whatever your partner may happen to be carrying (and to him, likewise).

My advice? Wait till you have had all three shots. And when you go in for that first shot, ask your doctor about going on birth control. That way you can start the birth control medications early and have them working for you by the time you finish the vaccination course. Get condoms, too. And read this with your boyfriend: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist

And as an important nitpick, you aren't being "treated for the virus." that would mean you already have the virus and you are undergoing some kind of therapy to deal with it. No, you are going to be vaccinated, which is a preventive measure. When prevention is effective, then you will have no need for treatment.

More about Gardasil: The HPV Vaccine FAQ

written 31 Mar 2008 . updated 31 Mar 2008

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