Men who have sex with men will be offered the HPV vaccination later this year in England.
Human papilloma virus is transmitted through sexual contact, and there are over a hundred forms of the virus.
In women it is most commonly associated with causing cervical cancer, but recent research has found “evidence of the association between HPV infection and non-cervical cancers on men who have sex with men (MSM).”
A vaccination pilot started across 42 sexual health clinics back in 2016, which assessed the cost-effectiveness of the programme.
NHS England and Public Health England have now announced that men who have sex with men under the age of 45 will be eligible to be vaccinated against the HPV virus.
“Our evidence shows that men who have sex with men are welcoming an HPV vaccination programme, and it can be delivered successfully through sexual health services,” said Dr Michael Edelstein, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE.
“MSM are a group who receive little indirect protection from the adolescent girls’ vaccination programme. We expect the new programme to reduce the number of cancers that are directly caused by HPV.”
The programme will be rolled out in phases, meaning that MSM wanting the vaccination shouldn’t book an appointment, but rather wait until they are offered it at their next sexual health clinic visit.
“We welcome the introduction of an HPV vaccination programme for gay and bisexual men in England from April 2018 and brings the country in line with what’s already happening in Scotland and Wales,” said Liam Beattie, HPV policy lead at Terrence Higgins Trust.
“The rollout will go someway towards protecting gay and bisexual men from preventable cancers caused by HPV, including anal, penile and neck cancers, as well as genital warts.
“This announcement is a welcome step forward and one that Terrence Higgins Trust and other sexual health charities have been campaigning for. However, we know that the efficacy of the vaccine is significantly increased when administered before someone is sexually active.
“Therefore we maintain our call for a gender-neutral school-based HPV vaccination programme with the HPV vaccine being rolled out to all adolescent boys in line with the current programme for all girls.
“We look forward to learning more about the planned phased roll-out of the vaccine with the hope it can be done in a swift and timely manner.”