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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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HPV vaccine will soon be available to gay men

The HSE vaccinates thousands of schoolgirls against the virus each year.

Image: Shutterstock/lOvE lOvE

THE HPV VACCINE  will be extended to men who have sex with men (MSM) next year.

MSM between the ages of 16 and 26 will be able to get the vaccine through public STI services from January onwards. The vaccination has been available to men and women living with HIV under the age of 26 since October.

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, with almost all men and women contracting it at some point in their lives.

In most cases, the virus clears on its own and does not have any symptoms, but in some cases, it can lead to genital warts or cancer. The HSE vaccinates thousands of schoolgirls against the virus each year.

The announcement was made at the opening of the HSE’s Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme conference today.

Dr Fiona Lyons, Clinical Lead for Sexual Health with the HSE said: “The vaccine will help to prevent HPV infection which can cause HPV-associated cancers and genital warts.

“It is important that MSM have access to the HPV vaccine because they do not benefit from the herd immunity conferred through vaccinating adolescent girls.

Speaking about the announcement, Minister for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said: “The increases in sexually transmitted infections and HIV, particularly among men who have sex with men, is cause for concern and we know that late diagnosis of HIV remains a problem.

“At the launch of the strategy last year, my department provided funding to pilot a peer-led, point of care HIV-testing initiative in pubs and clubs.

This pilot has had considerable success in identifying new cases of HIV. As we all know, earlier diagnosis of HIV allows for timely initiation of treatment which confers significant benefits on the individual living with HIV and reduces transmission within the population. The HSE is currently reviewing how this method of testing might be further rolled out in 2017.

Safe sex 

Dr Lyons added that the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre has convened a multi-sectoral national MSM HIV/STI outbreak response group “to investigate the reasons for, and to develop an effective response to the increase seen in HIV, syphilis and gonorrhoea in MSM”.

Dr Derval Igoe, chair of the group, said: “Working in partnership with the Gay Health Network and Positive Now means that we are in a good position to reach affected communities, raise awareness and provide clear health promotion and harm reduction messages effectively.

“Safer sex through use of condoms with new or casual partners, and regular testing for STI and HIV are key.”

Read: FactCheck: No, the reported side effects of the HPV vaccine do NOT outweigh the proven benefits

Read: Men twice as likely as women to get cancers linked to oral sex

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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