Read: 7 Not-So-Deadly Myths About STIs
Is HPV a Big Deal?
When you’re in your thirties like me, people who haven’t been vaccinated talk about HPV like it’s a necessary evil. “Well… (*shrug*) everyone has it.”
And if you don’t have it already, you’re likely to get it if you want to keep having sex, according to the CDC:
“Nearly all sexually active people, who do not get the HPV vaccine, get infected with HPV at some point in their lives.”
HPV is pervasive, but that doesn’t mean we can be blasé about its possible effects or skip steps to prevent its spread. As a proud patriot of the sexual realm, it’s in your best interest to seek protection if you haven’t already, especially considering the fact that condoms aren’t a surefire method for avoiding the virus.
Read: So, You're Having an STI Scare? Here's What to Do
Why Was the age Cutoff for the HPV Vaccine Previously 26?
The HPV vaccine is most effective if you get it before ever becoming sexually active in the first place, which is why the CDC recommends that kids get vaccinated around the age of ten. As most adults are already exposed to HPV by the age of 26, it was thought that getting vaccinated after that point would be useless. The cutoff was also partly due to the ages of participants included in studies used for Gardasil 9’s original approval in 2014.
However, the FDA now believes that adults 45 and under are unlikely to have been exposed to all nine strains of HPV covered by the vaccine, meaning they still have a chance to benefit by avoiding certain types of cancers and genital warts.
Read: STI Testing Stories (and Why At-Home Testing Is a Great Idea)
I’ve Heard Men CAN'T Get HPV. Is This true?
No. In fact, a 2017 study showed that around half of adult men in the U.S. were carrying the virus. Men can and do suffer from HPV-related cancers and genital warts.
The difference is that, unlike women, men aren’t routinely tested for HPV through pap smears. However, some healthcare providers do offer anal pap tests to men, who may be at increased risk for anal cancer, including men with HIV or men who receive anal sex.
People of all genders are eligible for the HPV vaccine and can benefit from its effects throughout the course of their lives.
Read: How When and Why to Disclose Your STI Status
Is the Vaccine Still Effective if I Previously Tested Positive for HPV?
Possibly. The vaccine protects against nine types of HPV that may eventually lead cause certain kinds of cancer or genital warts. It will protect you against any of those nine types that you haven’t already been exposed to.
If I Started the Gardasil Series and Didn’t Finish it, do I Have to Start Over Again?
Nope! You can pick up where you left off with the second or third shot.
How Much Does the HPV Vaccine Cost?
Gardasil 9 can cost around $250 without insurance. Luckily, many insurance providers do cover the vaccine. With Medical, I paid ZERO DOLLARS during my visit to Planned Parenthood. What a steal!
So if you’re 45 and under and haven’t been vaccinated against HPV, find thee a healthcare provider who knows what’s up and ask. Don’t be shy!