“Invincible” Students Reject HIV Vaccine

Recently, great strides have been made in the research of many sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and HIV, and it is widely thought that a vaccine to combat and prevent such communicable ailments is thought to be on the horizon. This should be of particular interest to young people and college students, as statistics show that the American youth (18-25 years old) is the largest, and most quickly growing, group of people with STDs, STIs, and HIV/AIDS. However, new research out of the University of Missouri shows that many students may turn down an opportunity for vaccination based on what researchers call “invulnerability” to physical danger.

According to writer Emily Smith, students were surveyed and those who identified themselves as having being “invulnerable to physical danger” were less likely to receive the vaccination if given the chance, because they essentially feel “invincible” and feel themselves unlikely to incur any physical harm. On the other side of the equation, students who identified themselves as “psychologically invulnerable,” those who basically don’t care what their perceived appearance is to others, were more likely to get vaccinated. Indeed, a correlation may be emerging that the stigma associated with being vaccinated (that a person who seeks the vaccine may be promiscuous, unclean, etc.) will prevent young people from being proactive about their sexual health in this way.

Smith noted, however, that the “strongest predictor of vaccine acceptance was students’ perceived susceptibility to contracting HIV, followed by their number of sexual partners.”

Invulnerability studies are particularly salient in college communities across the United States, because college is known traditionally as a time when young people engage in extremely risky behavior. This study comes on the heels of the Gardasil vaccine released in 2006, which claims to protect women from certain types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), many of which can cause cervical cancer.

What do you think? Is it your responsibility to get vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available? Comment.

by M. Molendyke

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