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HPV vaccine to be offered to gay men

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A VACCINATION programme is to be offered to gay men to help protect them from some cancers and genital warts.

HPV vaccines are already offered to girls in Year 8

Jersey is expected to roll out the human papillomavirus vaccine to homosexual men later this month – two months ahead of when a similar programme is due to be introduced in England.

Since 2008, the Island has offered the vaccine – which provides protection against the two most common types of HPV that are responsible for more than 74 per cent of cervical cancer cases – to girls in Year 8. Uptake among Jersey girls is about 90 per cent.

However, the Health Department is now to offer the free vaccine to men aged up to 45 who have sex with men following increasing evidence that HPV is linked to genital warts as well as penile, anal and some head and neck cancers.

Four out of five people worldwide will contract some type of HPV at least once during their life. Both sexes are susceptible to the virus and most people’s immune system will clear the infection without the need for further treatment.

Although the vaccination of women does not directly protect heterosexual men, it does offer them ‘herd protection’. This is because the HPV vaccine prevents infection, which means that men who have sex with vaccinated women will not be infected with high-risk HPV and will therefore be protected.

However, gay men do not have herd protection against high-risk HPV and so are at risk of possibly developing cancer.

A Health spokesman said: ‘Following a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the UK’s independent expert panel on vaccination matters, whose advice the Health and Social Services Department considers when planning Jersey’s vaccination programmes – HPV vaccine will be offered to men who have sex with men up to and including the age of 45 via the GUM clinic at the General Hospital.

‘We are awaiting arrival of vaccine via the Hospital pharmacy and anticipate this will be available by the end of February,’ the spokesman added.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already offer the vaccine to men who have sex with other men.

And from April, England will also roll out the vaccination programme to gay men aged 45 or younger following a successful pilot scheme in 42 specialist sexual health clinics in 2016.

Krysta Eaves

By Krysta Eaves
author

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