Wednesday 27 July 2016
As of 01 January 2017, New Zealand will become the first country to fund the new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for everyone up to 26 years of age. PHARMAC will fund the new HPV vaccine which covers more types of disease-causing HPV than the previously funded vaccine.
This development is particularly relevant for gay and bisexual men. “Until now, gay and bisexual men have not had access to the publicly funded HPV vaccination. Anal cancers caused by HPV are of particular concern and are more common among gay and bisexual men compared to both women and heterosexual men. We also know that HPV infection increases the risk of acquiring HIV and therefore highly recommend that all eligible men book themselves in to receive the two doses of the new 9-valent HPV vaccine as soon as it becomes available,” says Jason Myers, Executive Director, New Zealand AIDS Foundation.
This vaccination is the most effective tool available for preventing and protecting people against HPV. Globally HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and has been linked to a range of diseases that affect both women and men. These include anogenital warts, vaginal and cervical cancers, penile cancers, anal cancers, and oral cancers. While HPV infection is common, HPV-related cancers are rare and the vast majority of HPV infections will have no symptoms.
In New Zealand, the new 9-valent HPV vaccine will be provided in two doses through school-based vaccination programmes. Those beyond school age will need to seek vaccination through their healthcare providers.
“When gay and bi men go in to receive the HPV vaccine they should also discuss vaccination for Hepatitis A and B, which are unfortunately not currently funded in New Zealand but are well worth the investment in protecting your health,” says Dr. Myers.
Large international research programmes have proven that the vaccine is highly effective and extremely safe. Australia was one of the first countries to implement HPV vaccination for both girls and boys and they have seen anogenital warts virtually eliminated among the age groups who have been vaccinated. In 2014, New Zealand saw 2003 new cases of anogenital warts of which 1148 (57%) were among males.