Friday 23-10-2015 - 14:21
It's extremly important that we raise awareness among MPs on the importance of vaccinating all genders against the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) .
Since the vaccination against the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) for young girls was introduced in 2008 to protect them against cervical cancer, our knowledge about HPV and its role in causing other cancers in both sexes has greatly increased. But, as yet, there has been little advancement in ensuring everyone is protected from HPV, including men who have sex with men (MSM).
While I believe it is important that we continue to vaccinate young women against HPV, we must ensure that we are vaccinating to protect all genders. If we continue to only vaccinate young girls, we not only exclude protection for MSM but men who have sex with unvaccinated women and also young men who will later in life transition to become a woman. This is a huge oversight and failing of the last coalition government. Here’s why:
HPV remains to be one of the most highly contagious sexually transmitted infections throughout the world, with a 50-80% chance of transmission following unprotected sexual intercourse with someone with a current HPV infection(1). The Human Papillomavirus also causes 48,000 diagnoses of genital warts in men each year in the United Kingdom. HPV also causes 5% of all cancers and over 2,000 men in the UK each year are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers.
While the cost of extending HPV vaccination to all genders is estimated at around £20-22 million a year, this is modest when compared to the costs of treating HPV-related diseases and the savings that will be generated by preventing these diseases in the first place. It is simply good public health policy to vaccinate both genders, something which is reflected by the many other countries which are already doing so, such as Australia. In fact, it has been anecdotally reported that Australia has sent out national adverts telling the population of Australia not to sleep with British back packers because of the HPV epidemic. If you don’t agree with many of these points raised in the blog, think of the poor young people travelling across Australia in pursuit of an adventure down under!
Having a gender-neutral HPV vaccination programme will not only save the NHS money but most importantly, ensure equality for MSM and trans women. Over the past few decades we have seen the UK introduce anti-discriminatory legislation in a number of areas for LGBT people in the UK. However, we must keep reminding ourselves that LGBT+ people are not equal just because legislation such as the same sex marriage has passed. There are still vast inequalities for the LGBT community within our health service, from mental health, to access to services, to this immunisation programme against HPV.
There are also legal requirements for our Government and NHS to do something about this. Under the Equality Act 2010 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 there are requirements for health inequalities to be reduced. The NHS constitution also has a commitment to provide a ‘comprehensive service’, available to all irrespective of gender and sexual orientation. This clearly isn’t being achieved so long as MSM don’t have protection from HPV.
Although several MPs are already behind this, we need more than ever to ensure that the Government is sticking to its principles in supporting this just cause. For that reason there has been an EDM tabled by Danny Kinahan a UUP MP, (EDM 464) to get MPs from all sides of the house to extend HPV jabs to all adolescents. I hope this EDM will be the starting point to ensure the Government makes the HPV vaccine available for both genders– sooner rather than later.
I’m calling on the student movement to join this campaign to get a gender neutral HPV vaccination.
If you want to get involved please write to your MP about this issue, using this template letter. You can also promote using the #jabsforall.
We need to ensure everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the same access to protection from HPV.
NCIRS, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines for Australians: Information Providers: (March 2013)