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HPV funding a “big step forward” for gay and bi men

Tue 31 May 2016 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Pharmac has announced a proposal to fund human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for males aged 26 years and younger, a “big step forward” for gay and bisexual men says Dr Peter Saxton who also calls for an extension of this age range for the demographic. Voisin/Phanie / Rex Features HPV causes anal, oral and penile cancer in men as well as cervical and other cancers in women, and also causes anogenital warts. Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Gay Men’s Sexual Health research group at the University of Auckland, Peter Saxton says “This is a big step forward, not only for men’s health generally but especially for gay and bisexual men who experience disproportionately high rates of anal cancer according to overseas studies. “Universal vaccination at an early age, preferably prior to first sex confers the greatest individual and community protection” says Dr Saxton. “This proposal closes two major gaps. First of all, offering vaccination to young males as well as females means men won’t have to rely on vaccinated female partners for their protection,” he says. “Secondly, young gay men who are the group most at risk of developing anal cancer later in life can receive the vaccine without having to disclose their sexuality, which may be unsafe for them, or paying for it themselves at a cost of $500 for three doses”, says Saxton. The Gay Men’s Sexual Health research group is also supporting an extension for gay and bisexual men up to the age of 45, a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK. Saxton says this is “on the basis that vaccination rates for girls are currently around 60% so some younger men will have missed out by the time they reach age thirty, but they will have ongoing risk. “The extension to age 26 is welcomed because while earlier is certainly better, not everyone is exposed to the full range of harmful HPV strains as teenagers so vaccination beyond this can still confer some protection,” says Saxton. “Plus, greater coverage across both age and gender should hasten community immunity,” he says. Included in the proposals is a move to Gardasil 9 which covers nine different strains of HPV instead of the previous four, a two dose regimen for those aged 14 or under, and a three dose regimen for those aged 15-26.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 31st May 2016 - 1:02pm

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