Vaccine must be given to gay men to prevent anal cancer, says BMA

British Medical Association is urging Gardasil vaccine, normally used to treat young girls for cervical cancer, should be given to gay men

Vaccine must be given to gay men to prevent anal cancer, says BMA
17 January 2013

Doctors have urged the UK government to allow young gay men access to the vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). 

Leading medical professionals are urging the UK government to give gay men access to a vaccine that could prevent anal cancer.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the Gardasil vaccine, which prevents Human papillomavirus (HPV) and will given to young schoolgirls from next September, should given to gays in sexual health clinics.

The recommendations were made in a letter to Anna Soubry, the Health Minister.

The letter said: ‘The increasing incidence of HPV and development of anal lesions in gay men, particularly HIV positive gay men, is alarming.

‘A vaccination programme with Gardasil which included this group would be of enormous benefit in reducing the increasing incidences of anal warts, and pre-cancers and cancers.’

Gardasil safeguards against the two most common strains of HPV, which can cause genital and anal warts.

The vaccine also offers protection against cervical, throat, anal and penile cancers.

The Cervarix vaccine is currently provided to girls aged 12 to 13. It protects against cervical cancer but not against genital warts.

Research has suggested the inoculation of girls will at the same time protect heterosexual boys from HPV through ‘herd mentality’, as girls who have received the vaccine are unlikely to have the virus.

But the same method does not shield gay and bisexual men from risk.

Speaking to Gay Star News, veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said it is ‘absurd’ the government is dragging its feet.

He said: ‘It recognizes the value of the vaccine to protect young girls. Since young gay men are also at risk, it makes no sense to deny them this protection.

‘Providing the vaccine to young gay men will save the NHS money in the long term as well as safeguarding their health and lives.

Tatchell added: ‘It sounds like the government is squeamish about anal sex. What other explanation could there be for ignoring the advice of the British Medical Association and the health of young gay men?’

The BMA said evidence from Australia supports their recommendations, with the Gardasil vaccine introduced for 12 and 13-year-old girls in 2004. 

Its success means it is now due to be extended to boys in the same age range.

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