New data supports vaccinating gay men against HPV

The first wave of human papillomavirus vaccinations from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Merck ($MRK) generally targeted girls. Cervical cancer made them a high-risk group, and there was hope herd immunity would protect men, too. Guidance has evolved since then, though.

In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that males receive the HPV vaccine and singled out men who have sex with men as a higher risk group. A United Kingdom paper published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections has validated the CDC's decision to tailor its vaccine recommendations for gay, bisexual and immunocompromised men. The Irish Times reported on the study.

"Men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HPV-related cancer, particularly anal cancer, where rates are over 15 times higher than in heterosexual men," the authors write in Sexually Transmitted Infections, part of the British Medical Journal. The figure is in line with data quoted by the CDC. In its HPV vaccine recommendations, the CDC states that gay and bisexual men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than men who only have sex with women.

While CDC recommendations already recognize gay men as a high-risk group, other countries are still establishing policies. British politicians debated the topic earlier this month, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation must report its findings before the policy changes. The committee is looking at the impact and cost-effectiveness of vaccinating men who have sex with men. In the meantime, the British Medical Association has begun a petition to have Gardasil offered to gay men. New Zealand is also reconsidering its policy. In March, its Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC) recommended offering HPV vaccines to males aged 11 to 25 who identify as gay or bisexual.

- here's the Irish Times article
- read the journal release
- check out a research extract
- view the British parliamentary debate
- and the PTAC meeting minutes