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HPV vaccine issue affects men as well

ANDRE BAGOO Sunday, February 3 2013

THE Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination drive that was pulled from schools last week by the Ministry of Health targeted girls, but many have overlooked the fact that the issue also affects men’s health as well.

Though the vaccination drive appeared to be geared at protecting women from the risk of developing cervical cancer, protecting women from the virus would also in the process protect men who come into sexual contact with them.

HPV is the most common STD in the world. US statistics suggest that HPV is so common that at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. About one in 100 sexually active adults in the United States have genital warts — linked to HPV — at any given time.

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. There are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States.

Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in women each year in the United States. There are about 15,000 HPV-associated cancers in the United States that may be prevented by vaccines each year in women, including cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils).

But equally, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 7,000 HPV-associated cancers in the United States that may be prevented by vaccine each year in men, and oropharyngeal cancers are the most common. Each year, about five times more men than women get HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers, according to the CDC. About 400 men get HPV-associated penile cancer; 2,700 women and 1,500 men get HPV-associated anal cancer.

HPV is very easily spread through any form of sexual contact, whether penetrative or not and using a condom is not regarded by medical experts as an effective means of prevention.

Currently, our knowledge of the HPV vaccine Gardasil suggests that the risk of adverse side-effect does not compare with the far greater risks of cancers in both men and women.

On this basis, how can religious bodies object to a vaccination drive? HPV can affect everyone, regardless of religious beliefs and sexual practices, and in those circumstances is it not better to protect women and men from potentially lethal illness?

The question remains, however, why males have, apparently, not been included in the State’s inoculation drive.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in addition to being recommended for girls, Gardasil is actually recommended for boys. The CDC states, “Gardasil is recommended for 11 and 12-year-old boys, and for males 13 through 26 years of age, who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger.”

This makes sense, as men also spread HPV to women as well as among themselves.

Perhaps the HPV issue needs to be considered as being wider in scope and the State’s inoculation drive should be widened to include boys.



Email:abagoo@newsday.co.tt

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