Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Push to Extend HPV Vaccinations for Gay Men

Vaccines are quite controversial these days. There are still people who believe the autism/vaccine link, even though that has been debunked by the very person who made that claim in the first place. Other people believe that we need to build up immunity naturally, by getting the illnesses rather than through vaccinations. Some object just out of principle.

Vaccines are not fool-proof. It is still possible to get an illness even if you have had the vaccine because sometimes they don't work as well as they should. Unfortunately, some people also get some of the side effects, the adverse reactions they're called, some of which can be quite severe. But for the most part, vaccines have saved many, many lives. Certain diseases have been eradicated, like small pox, while others are rarely found in many parts of the world, like polio.

The HPV vaccine, a vaccine that protects against some strains of the HPV (human papillomavirus) has been one of the more controversial ones. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. According to the CDC, it is the most commonly spread sexually transmitted infection (STI). The virus can cause cancers of the cervix and anus, as well as others.

There has been a push to ensure that all young women (below the age of 26 who have not yet been sexually active) to be vaccinated. There is also a call for young men under the age of 21 to do so, because they can pass on the virus.

In 2008, the United Kingdom began vaccinating the girls, but not yet the boys. The idea was that if the girls stopped getting the virus, it wouldn't be spread to the boys. But this thinking is changing, particularly because of the high rate of genital cancer among gay men, which is more than 15 times than that of straight men.

According to a press release issued by the BMJ: 

"Data from Australia show that HPV vaccination of girls has had an impact on the prevalence of genital warts in straight men, but there has been no such change in prevalence among gay men, say the authors.

In February this year, Australia extended its school based HPV vaccination programme to 12-13 year old boys, with a catch up programme for 14-15 year olds.

Recent research has shown that the HPV jab is effective in men, including gay men. The vaccine covers HPV 16 and 18, the two strains of the virus which account for most of the cancers associated with the infection."

What do you think about the HPV vaccine? Should it just be given to everyone?

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