Health

Anti-cancer jab piloted in gay men

HPV jab Image copyright SPL

A vaccine to reduce the risk of cancer is to be offered to homosexual men in England in a pilot scheme starting in June.

The jab protects against human papillomavirus, which increases the risk of oral, anal and penile cancers.

It has been offered to school-age girls, to protect them from cervical cancer, since 2008.

However, there have been repeated calls for the vaccine to be given to all boys as well.

In November 2015, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - which advises all UK governments - called for the HPV jab to be offered to gay men up to the age of 45.

The JCVI said there would also be a "substantial benefit" in reducing the number of genital warts.

Health minister Jane Ellison announced: "Through this pilot, the HPV vaccine will be offered during existing appointments at selected GUM (sexual health) and HIV clinics in England to test delivery in these settings.

"Public Health England is in the process of agreeing which GUM and HIV clinics will take part in the pilot.

"A full roll-out of a HPV vaccination programme for men who have sex with men will be dependent on the progress and outcome of the pilot."

The jab is also being rolled out in Wales.

Dr Shaun Griffin, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "The announcement of this pilot feels like a cynical stalling tactic.

"Back in November, the government said that all MSM up to the age of 45 would be able to access the HPV vaccine across the country - now, six months later, we are disappointed to see this has been scaled down to a small-scale and unnecessary pilot."

Peter Baker, from the charity HPV Action, said: "The extension of the HPV vaccination programme to protect men has been characterised by delay after delay.

"The best way of protecting men who have sex with men, as well as all other men, is to vaccinate all adolescent boys.

"It is vital that a decision on this issue is made soon because, with every year that passes, almost 400,000 more boys are left unprotected."

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Image copyright Thinkstock

HPV

  • There are more than 100 different types of human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A number of HPV types are passed on from one person to another through sexual contact
  • Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer
  • Around 3,100 women are diagnosed with this type of cancer every year in the UK.

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