Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common viral infection with over 100 strains, some of which cause simple hand warts or verrucas, but some can cause the sexually-transmitted infection genital warts or a range of cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulval, penile, anal and oral).
Gay and bisexual men have high rates of HPV infection and HPV-related disease, and the incidence of anal cancer is highest in men who have sex with men, particularly in HIV-positive men.
The HPV-related cancers are entirely preventable through vaccination. The main cancer-causing HPV strains are types 16 and 18 and were included in the HPV vaccine ‘Gardasil’ along with HPV types 6 and 11 which are the main causes of genital warts.
The UK public health approach was to only vaccinate girls aged 12-13 (later expanded up to age 17) in a school vaccination programme launched in 2012. This clearly provided no protection for gay men, especially if they are HIV positive.
In December 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a nine-strain vaccine called Gardasil9, that protected against HPV infection with the 4 strains covered by the first generation vaccine as well as five other HPV strains responsible for 20% of cervical cancers. Like the first generation Gardasil, Gardasil9 is a 2 or 3 dose series that you must complete over a 6 month period to ensure full immunity.
Finally, in November 2015, the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended the vaccine for gay men and other men who have sex with men aged 45 or younger.
Unfortunately, in July 2017, the JCVI announced that they were unable to recommend an extension of the national HPV programme to include adolescent boys. However 11 countries including Australia, Austria, Italy, and Norway are already vaccinating boys or will be doing so in the near future, and in the US they have routinely included HPV vaccination for male since 2009, so it is important that Gardasil9 is offered to boys in the private sector.
At ROC Private Clinic, we offer Gardasil9 vaccinations to all boys and girls aged 9 through to 26, and to all gay men and transgender people up to the age of 45.
Do share your thoughts on availability of the HPV vaccinations, any difficulties you may have experienced and pose any question our doctors would happily answer.