HPV vaccine for gay men?

Although HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccination is generally associated with women, the British Medical Association has recently said gay men should also receive this vaccination. This vaccine is given to teenage girls and women to significantly decrease their chances of developing cervical cancer.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that has been shown to cause cervical, penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts. People with compromised immune systems, such as those diagnosed with HIV, are at high risk. Though HPV is often associated with women, men can also carry this virus – and pass it on to their sexual partners.

The UK has a national programme of vaccinating young teenage girls, while older women can opt for a vaccination upon request.

Dr Ezio Baraldi, president of Southern African Sexual Health Association (SASHA), says there is currently no vaccination programme running in South Africa. Although the vaccine is freely available in the private sector, he says the government does not fund a vaccination program as the vaccine is very expensive.

"Work is being done to evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccine in men, and so far indications, from published data,  are that that it is equally effective in this population.

Gay men are at higher risk of developing anal cancer than heterosexual males, so it makes sense to vaccinate them first and then continue with the rest of the men," he says.

The four strains of HPV that are vaccinated against are sexually transmitted. Eventually, as more females in the UK are vaccinated, heterosexual males will receive indirect protection against these cancers and genital warts by their female sexual partners, but gay men will not receive this protection from their male sexual partners.

"HPV vaccination will reduce the transmission of HIV between partners and from that point of view, and given the equal effectiveness in both genders, should be given to everyone who is eligible," says Baraldi.

(Christa Rohwer, Occupational Therapist for Health24, January 2013)
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