You may think virgins are free from sexual infections, but they too face a chance of getting the human papillomavirus (HPV). Further evidence comes from a study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, 80 million people in the US currently have it. The virus can be spread via sexual activity with someone who has already been infected, which includes vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex.
The new research looked at 87 virgins aged 18 to 70 from 2005 to 2009 in the US, Brazil, and Mexico. The study found that even though the men refrained from vaginal and anal sex, it didn’t change the fact that some of them still likely caught the virus from non-penetrative sex, such as hand-to-genital contact or genital-to-genital contact.
Even when using condoms, you’re still not fully protected from catching the STI, since it’s passed through intimate skin-to-skin contact.
"Previous studies have found HPV among female virgins, but this is the first to find it among male virgins," said study author Alan Nyitray, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center, in a statement. "Finding HPV in this population was not entirely surprising, but it reinforces the point that HPV vaccination should not be thought of only in the context of sexual behavior."
Of the virgin men who began engaging in penetrative sex during the course of the study, 28.7 percent of them became infected with HPV within a year. After two years of sexual acitivty, 45.5 percent of them became infected.
This latest study highlights exactly why it’s vital for boys to receive the HPV vaccination as well, especially as some countries (such as the UK) only offer the shot to young girls.
In the United States, the vaccination is given to boys and girls who are either 11 or 12 years old. However, there was a point in time when it was only offered to girls due to women being diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Yet men also face exposure to the virus if they’re not given the injection, putting them at risk of cancer of the penis, anus, and/or throat. Currently, the HPV vaccine is recommended to women through the age of 26, and for men until the age of 21.