Abstinence. Condoms. STD testing.
All of these are tried and true ways to lower STD rates. And soon, new STD vaccines will make an appearance on this list.
Here’s what you need to know about the immunizations that can protect you from STDs.
Which STDs have vaccines?
There are several STDs, including Human papillomaviruses (HPV) and hepatitis B, that currently have STD vaccines. The first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved in 2006; it protects against 4 types of HPV. Cervarix, another of the STD vaccines, immunizes against 2 types. The recommended age to receive either of these STD vaccines is 11-12 for females, though females 13-26 can also receive the vaccination if they haven’t received it previously. The recommended age for males to rexeive Cervarix is 11-12, but males up to 26 can get the shot, too.
Other STD vaccines currently in use protect against hepatitis B, a viral STD spread through contact with bodily fluids. This includes sexual contact as well as shared use of injected drug paraphernalia or contact with infected open sores. There are several STD vaccines that protect against hepatitis B, and vaccination is recommended for all kids at birth. The three-dose series is administered over several months. If children have not received these STD vaccines by age 19, they can still be vaccinated; unvaccinated adults at risk for infection should also get their shots.
Certain sexually transmitted diseases are caused by bacteria — Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis among them. Unlike viral STDs, bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Since these treatments are more readily available, STD vaccines for bacterial infections really haven’t been developed.
What STD vaccines are in development?
Currently, there are several STD vaccines in development, including a vaccine for genital herpes. Scientists have been attempting to create a herpes vaccine since the 1930s; now a potential herpes vaccine is in the pre-clinical trial phase.
Researchers are also working on an HIV vaccine. Though progress has been made since the virus was isolated in 1983, work has stalled because of how rapidly HIV mutates and how the disease affects the immune system. Several STD vaccines to combat HIV have been developed, but none have advanced to clinical trials.
Since there are not currently STD vaccines for all infections, it’s important that you take the right steps to ensure your sexual health. Remaining abstinent, following safe sex practices when you are sexually active, and pursuing regular STD testing are all ways to keep yourself and your partner(s) safe.