Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be hard to talk about, especially with pre-teens and teenagers.

But you are your son's first line of defense, and there's something you can do to keep him from becoming infected with the most common STI out there: You can get him vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HPV spreads through genital contact—meaning that even if your son doesn't actually have sex with someone, he can still get or give someone else HPV.

How Does HPV Affect Boys and Men?

We hear a lot about HPV causing cervical cancer, which affects women and girls. But can boys get sick from HPV?

In a word, yes.

HPV in boys and men can cause...

Genital Warts:

Warts may not be visible for 6 weeks to 6 months after infection so it is possible to be infected and have no idea.


Cervical cancer in women is the most common cancer associated with HPV, but men can be susceptible to cancer as well. Each year in the U.S. there are about:

  • 400 men who get HPV-related cancer of the penis
  • 1,500 men who get HPV-related cancer of the anus
  • 5,600 men get cancers of the oropharynx, but many of these cancers are related to tobacco and alcohol use, not HPV

Source: CDC

Spread of the Virus:

The HPV vaccine is especially important for boys because there is no test available to detect HPV in men, according to the CDC.

That means that by the time guys realize they have HPV, it's usually too late and they can spread it to future partners.

Source: CDC

Will Getting My Son Vaccinated Lead to Him Becoming Sexually Active?

Some parents fear that getting their child vaccinated for an STI represents parental approval to have sexual intercourse.

It may be an awkward conversation, but it's ideal to be vaccinated before a person becomes sexually active, reminds the CDC.

So, when you talk about sexual health with your son, explain that the vaccine should be one of the first steps in his life as a responsible adult.

And, the good news for you is that people who are not sexually active and receive the HPV vaccine are not more likely to become sexually active after being vaccinated, says a study in the December 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

It's a Personal Choice

Making the choice to get your son vaccinated could also save him from the consequences of a careless act at a younger age leading to an infection that will follow him indefinitely.

Think about how one awkward conversation with you, the person he trusts the most, could help him in the future.

There is a lot of misinformation about vaccines and sexually transmitted infections out there. Learn the facts, and talk with your doctor to make the right choice for you and your son.