Gay and bi men offered HPV vaccine across Wales

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Men who have sex with men in Wales will be offered the HPV vaccine under a new program.

The vaccine was previously only offered to girls, and to some men who have sex with men who attend sexual health clinics.

But from April 1, the vaccination programme was rolled out across the country.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended the programme be rolled out as men who have sex with men can be at higher risk of HPV infection.

Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans said: “A HPV vaccine programme for adolescent girls has been in place since 2008.

“Vaccinating the majority of girls in the UK means that their future male partners get some protection too. However boys who become men who have sex with men will get far less of this protection.

“I am pleased that a new targeted HPV vaccination programme for gay men up to the age of 45 has been introduced across Wales.

“Gay men attending clinics for sexual health services will now be offered the vaccine.”

But some say the new programme doesn’t go far enough to tackle complications sometimes faced by those who contract various forms of the virus, which can lead to cancer.

Gay men were given HPV vaccines for the first time in the UK under a pilot scheme, the government confirmed back in 2016.

A vaccination programme began in 2008 among school-age girls in the UK to tackle the human papilloma virus, which spreads through genital or oral contact and can cause a number of cancers.

Only girls were vaccinated on the grounds that men who only have sex with women would logically also be protected from transmission through ‘herd immunity’.

However, an obvious flaw in the ‘herd immunity’ plan left gay men vulnerable. As they have sex with eachother and not women, they are effectively left without any protection when HPV spreads through the gay community.

The British government last summer confirmed that a pilot scheme is offering the vaccine to men who have sex with men.

Mike Freer MP had asked the government to confirm “on what date HPV vaccinations were made available to men who have sex with men; and how many such men have received that vaccination since that date.”

Nicola Blackwood, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health, confirmed: “A pilot programme offering human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to men who have sex with men up to the age of 45 who attend participating HIV and [GUM clinics] clinics started on 6 June 2016.

“Information on the number of HPV vaccinations administered during the pilot is being collected and, as such, is not yet available.

“It is anticipated that initial validated data covering the period up to the end of September will be available in late November.”

In a statement to PinkNews, Mr Freer said: “This has been a very long campaign, and although there is still much to do to improve access to the HPV vaccination, the launch of the pilot for MSM is a step in the right direction.

“I am looking forward to working with Nicola on a number of campaigns and will be meeting with her in the near future with fellow MPs, to discuss these issues in person.”

The trial comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation warned that gay men were being left vulnerable.

The JCVI advised that the three dose vaccine should be offered to gay and bisexual men who are at high risk of contracting the virus, provided that the service can be delivered at a cost effective price.