The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for young gay men to be given the HPV vaccine to combat an increase in anal cancer.
The organisation has written to UK Health Minister Anna Soubry supporting the extended use of the vaccine.
The vaccine against HPV has traditionally been given to young girls to avoid cervical cancer but the virus is also linked to penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.
Last year, the vaccine was changed from Cervarix to Gardasil, which protects against the strains of HPV that cause genital warts as well as those that cause cancers.
According to the BMA there has been an “alarming increase in anal cancer in gay men” as well as throat cancer linked to sexual activity in developing countries.
“We believe that a vaccination programme with Gardasil [for young gay men] would be of enormous benefit in reducing the incidence of anal warts, anal pre-cancer and cancer, as borne out in Australia,” said the association in the letter.
Gardasil is to be extended to all boys between the ages of 12 and 13 in Australia, where it has been given to girls since 2004 and has already shown dramatic results.
While the UK won’t do the same for all boys due to budgetary constraints, specialists say that the vaccine should at least be given to gay youth up to the age of 21 and could be included as an add-on vaccination when vaccinating against hepatitis B.
According to Glenn De Swart from Health4Men, vaccinating against HPV should take place before a person’s sexual debut. He told Mambaonline that the vaccine is not provided to boys in the public health sector in South Africa although it can be provided to young gay men by a private doctor if requested.