THE BLOG

HPV Vaccinations Should Be For Men Too

16/01/2014 13:31 GMT | Updated 17/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Immunisation against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has been commonplace in women since 2008 with a mainly school-based initiative. It is important to receive the HPV injection as it features in a significant proportion of all cancers - as many as 5% of total cases. It is particularly of issue in cervical cancer in women and even more so in those who are sexually active. Most HPV infections are harmless (90%) as the body is well equipped to defend itself against the daily barrage of viruses trying to set up camp in our very supporting cells. The HPV vaccination acts to supplement this with an extra barrier of protection to contraception methods. While many interpret HPV as a low possibility of being harmful, the vaccination is a very effective prophylaxis that is as normal to take as other vaccinations, such as for TB and Measles.

Yet, all that has been mentioned so far is the risk to women alone. A virus is not gender specific in seeking out a host and men are prone to infection too. While men manage to dodge the cervical cancer scares, there are many other cancers linked to HPV that will leave many wincing and holding their sacred genitalia in fear. Men of all forms of sexuality are at threat from HPV, particularly men who have sex with men. HPV can be the basis in causing penile, throat and anal cancer. Yes, I said penile cancer. Cue attention being grabbed. Men are very aware of testicular cancer due to it being the most common form of cancer in young men but even with a low rate of cancer of the penis, this is something that I'm sure many men will be willing to do anything to avoid any chance of occurrence.

This is why a new initiative for the inclusion of men in HPV vaccination has been campaigned for by HPV Action and is being supported by many organisations such as Cancer Research UK and Sexpression:UK. HPV Action wants to promote gender neutral action to combat HPV because 'Vaccinating only girls helps to perpetuate the belief that the primary responsibility for health, especially sexual health, should be borne by females. Preventing ill-health should actually be a responsibility shared by both sexes.'

There is also an issue of women passing on the virus to men in sexual contact and the man spreading the virus to other areas of the body; such as the anus. As cancer affects 1 in 3 of us and a vaccination is available to help reduce that profound effect, action must be taken to support this public health initiative to drive up herd immunity to the dangerous virus. The vaccination can be paid for privately but that in turn creates barriers to healthcare that the NHS was set up to eliminate and it has been found to be cost effective. Britain can join Australia as the only other country to implement a vaccination scheme for boys (aged 12/13), with the United States and Canada also recommending it in their states and provinces. Supporting campaigns couldn't be easier these days, with online petitions an effective means for this. There is an HPV one too which I urge men AND women to support by signing and recruiting others to join the movement.