HPV Vaccination for Men who have Sex with Men
The vaccination for HPV is now available for men who have sex with other men. It will help protect you against HPV infection which can cause genital warts and HPV associated cancers.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a sexually transmitted infection, spread mainly by skin to skin contact. It is one of the most common STIs in the UK and nearly all sexually active people will get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. The risk increases with the number of sexual partners you have. The majority of HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and they usually clear up on their own.
However, HPV infections which persist can lead to cancers. HPV types 16 and 18 can cause anal, penile, throat and cervical cancer. Other types of HPV such as 6 and 11 cause genital warts.
If you are a man who has sex with other men, the risk of anal cancer is higher than in heterosexual men. The risk is higher again if you are living with HIV. Men who have sex with men are also more likely to get genital warts.
Condoms do not guarantee protection from HPV because it can be transmitted by skin to skin contact between areas not covered by a condom. This means that the best way to protect yourself from HPV is by getting vaccinated. The HPV vaccination is a very effective way to reduce your risk or genital warts and of developing HPV related cancers in the future.
The vaccination is available at sexual health clinics across England.
If you are 15 years or older, up to and including 45 years old, the vaccine is a course of injections over 4-12 months. The second dose is given at least one month after the first dose. The third dose is given at least 3 months after the second dose and ideally within 12 months of the first dose. If you are under 15, you only need two doses 6 months apart.
Ideally, the vaccine should be given before you become sexually active, but the protection is still good even if you receive the vaccine later. It is important that you receive the full course of vaccinations to get the best possible protection.
The side effects of the HPV vaccination are quite mild. It’s common to get soreness, redness and swelling in the arm but this will wear off in a couple of days. More serious side effects are extremely rare.