SIOUX FALLS, SD
It's not an easy subject to talk about with your high school or even middle school age kids. But doctors can help you get the "sex talk" started.
They can simply ask if you want to protect your child against a common STD and cervical cancer. If that answer is yes, a vaccine is now available for both your daughter and your son.
In 2006, Gardasil was approved for young women to protect them against HPV. Last fall the same was approved for young boys, but their response hasn't been as great.
Dr. Maria Bell is a gynecological cancer specialist with Sanford Health. She sees the effects of the Human Papillomavirus every day in her practice.
"It's devastating and if I can do anything to protect my children from having this disease affect them, of course, I'm going to do that," Bell said.
That's why four years ago, her 12 year-old daughter was the first girl in South Dakota to receive the Gardasil Vaccine, and soon her 11-year-old son will get the three-dose shot.
"He doesn't really necessarily understand the nuances of sexual transmitted disease, but you know when this is preventing genital warts - kind of give him a very brief description of that - he's like, 'Eww, I don't want those,'" Bell said.
Her son won't be the first in the state to get the vaccine, but Bell hopes he's not the last.
Gardasil recently received FDA approval for prevention of Genital Warts, and the shot is a lot less invasive than the alternative.
"Genital warts is typically treated with some sort of burning or lasering or freezing of the warts that are on the penis and scrotum. So obviously that's invasive and not something most men wouldn't want to go through," Bell said.
But young men aren't as receptive to the vaccine.
"Those patients are hard to access in general because they're healthy young adults and often times aren't presenting to the pediatrician or family practitioners off," Bell said.
But statistics show kids in the U.S. are sexually active. Seven percent of children have had sex before they turn 13 and 25 percent have had it before the age of 15.
Bell says that's why it's important both girls and boys get the vaccine at a young age.
"Most patients do not know they have HPV and it's very important that this vaccine is administered before they become exposed to the virus. Because it doesn't work after exposure," Bell said. Learn more about HPV and the vaccine to protect against it.