Should HPV vaccination programmes include gay men?

In a significant move, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has agreed to set up a working group on possibly offering HPV vaccinations to adolescent boys and gay and bisexual men.

In the minutes of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) (United Kingdom) October meeting, the committee agreed that “consideration of options for vaccinating men who have sex with men (MSM) should be prioritised.”

HPV (human papillomavirus) is known to spread through genital or oral contact.

It can cause cervical, penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.

A vaccination programme against the human papillomavirus began in 2008 in the UK, but only among girls, on the grounds that this would curb the spread of the infection to boys as well.

Straight men gain protection from the virus through herd immunity if women are vaccinated, but no such protection is afforded to gay men.

The north London gay MP Mike Freer has campaigned extensively at Westminster to get the government to address the issue. 

The minutes made reference to Mr Freers’ debate on extending the vaccination programme with Health Minister Anna Soubry in the Commons earlier this year. 

In September, the Department of Health (DOH) said it had no plans to extend the HPV vaccine to young gay men.

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