HPV vaccinations encouraged for men who have sex with men

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      While the human papillomavirus, one of the most frequently sexually transmitted infections, is more commonly known to cause cervical cancer, it's important to be aware that it's also related to several cancers in men.

      Up to 90 percent of anal cancers (which is far more common among MSM) and 40 to 50 percent of penile cancers are caused by some strains of HPV, according to studies.

      Other strains of the virus cause gential warts to form. While the warts can be treated, there is no treatment available for the virus. Which means that even if the warts aren't there, the virus still is.

      Many people who have HPV don't show any symptoms but can pass on the virus.

      There also isn't a test available to diagnose men for HPV.

      About 60 percent of queer men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) have been infected by HPV. (In other words, that's about six out of every 10 guys that you could choose as a sex partner.) More than 80 percent of those who are HIV–positive have also been infected by HPV.

      In an attempt to reach a vulnerable population, the Vancouver-based Health Initiative for Men has launched a campaign called #GetGarded to raise awareness about the high rates of HPV infection and anal cancer and to encourage men to get immunized.

      Health Canada approved the use of Gardasil for HPV vaccinations.

      Unfortunately in B.C., the HPV4 vaccine (or Gardasil) is free for all females but not males, who must pay for their own vaccinations.

      Gardasil, which protects against the most common HPV strains, costs about $450 for three doses (administered over a six-month period). Gardasil 9, which protects against additional HPV strains, costs about $540 for three doses.

      HIM is encouraging gay, bisexual, and other men who can afford it, or are covered by health insurance plans, to get vaccinated.

      HIM has launched a website with more detailed information about HPV.

      In other HPV news, the Unversity of British Columbia announced on April 10 that Dr. Gina Ogilvie was one of 23 UBC research chairs (and one of 11 new chairs) to receive funding from the Canada Research Chair program. Dr. Ogilvie is studying how to prevent the HPV and the cancers it causes such as cervical cancer. UBC will receive a total of $23.2 million for the 23 research chairs.