Medical body calls on NHS to extend HPV vaccination to gay men

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A group of health professionals, men’s health charities, and senior politicians are set to call on the NHS to extend vaccination against carcinogenic Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to gay men, the Guardian reports.

The health service already provides vaccination of young girls, between 12 and 13, against HPV, which has proved successful in reducing the incidence of infections since its introduction in 2008. Through the phenomenon known as ‘herd immunity,’ heterosexual boys are also protected.

HPV is thought to be the cause of genital warts, and cervical, anal and other types of tumours.

However, gay men are left out of vaccination against this dangerous virus, the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) warns. The Association, which has the backing of the British Medical Association (BMA), the HIV-charity Terrence Higgins Trust, and senior MPs, now want to meet with government health professionals this week, to recommend extending the vaccination to homosexual men.

Their call echoes a call by the British Dental Association, which called on the government to include HPV vaccination to prevent oral cancers in gay men.

Dr David Asboe of BASHH told the Guardian: “We recognise that there’s a burden of disease, particularly for gay men, that is not being met and we recognise that there’s an effective intervention.” He argues that there is significant evidence that vaccinating sexually active gay men up to the age of 26 can significantly reduce anal cancer, a condition for which no screening exists.

Health professionals also argue that it can reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

“With any healthcare intervention there’s going to be arguments about the cost effectiveness,” Dr Asboe added. “A full analysis has not yet been conducted but certainly, in terms of cervical cancer, those arguments are well-rehearsed and it’s a very cost-effective intervention.”

Conservative MP, Peter Bottomley has compared it to campaigns that have effectively eliminated smallpox and polio in the UK. He said: “I don’t see why gay men should be left out. If you want to reduce the antisocial transmission of viruses and if we want to reduce anal cancers the same way we reduce cervical cancers, we need to be open about where the gaps are.”

The government’s joint committee on vaccination and immunisation will look into these proposals on Wednesday, 13 June.