Health

Gay men 'should get anti-cancer jab'

HPV jab Image copyright SPL

A vaccine to prevent cancer as well as anal and genital warts should be given to men who have sex with men, according to the government's experts.

The HPV jab is already given to schoolgirls in the UK, but there have been calls for the vaccination programme to be extended.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said immunising gay men would be cost effective.

Campaigners said the government was still leaving boys at risk.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide.

Girls are vaccinated at the age of 12 or 13 to reduce their risk of cervical cancer, which is largely caused by the virus.

But HPV also causes cancers of the throat, anus and penis as well as causing genital warts.

There are 48,000 cases of genital warts in UK men each year.

Image copyright SPL

The JCVI's latest report recommends offering the jab at sexual health clinics to men who have sex with men, aged between 16 and 40.

It says: "Although such a programme would be very likely to prevent HPV associated cancers in men who have sex with men, the model had indicated that an even more substantial benefit could be realised from the prevention of ano-genital warts."

A full analysis of the merits for vaccinated adolescent boys will not start until next year.

However, the committee noted that the success of the girls vaccination programme would "provide indirect protection for boys to such an effect that there may be little additional benefit to be accrued from vaccinating most boys".

Peter Baker, the director of the campaign group HPV Action, said: "While vaccinating men who have sex with men is a step forward, it is not sufficient to protect the UK population as a whole from the human papillomavirus and the entirely preventable diseases it causes.

"As things stand, the UK government is still putting parents in a position where they can see their daughters protected but not their sons."

The group says the move "will not protect the majority" of men who have sex with men if it is offered only at sexual health clinics.

The government said it would wait for a direct recommendation by the JCVI before responding.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: "While extending the vaccination to men who have sex with men is a positive step, we implore the committee to reach a decision and introduce a vaccination for all boys.

"Vaccinating men who have sex with men still leaves a significant proportion of the population at risk of HPV and vaccinating all girls and boys is the only way forward."

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