What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the name of a group of viruses with around 200 different types, that is most commonly passed on via genital contact.
Although HPV is highly common, 90% of HPV infections go away by themselves and do not cause any harm. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems.
However, it is possible for HPV infections to persist and cause cellular change in your body. This can lead to:
- Cancer of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in women
- Precancerous lesions in men and women
- Genital warts in men and women
- Head and neck cancers in men and women
HPV vaccines have a well-established role in preventing cervical cancers as well as these other aforementioned conditions.
Who Should Be Vaccinated against HPV?
In theory, HPV vaccines are best given to young people before they become sexually active, and therefore before they can be exposed to HPV.
Individuals who are already sexually active might also benefit as they may not have yet acquired all of the HPV strains covered by the vaccine. Patients aged under 16 can only be vaccinated with their parents present.
Why Boys should receive the HPV Vaccine
- About 15% of UK girls who are eligible for vaccination are currently not receiving both doses. This figure is much higher in some areas
- Most older women in the UK have not had the HPV vaccination
- Men may have sex with women from other countries which have no vaccination programme
- Men who have sex with men are not protected by the girls’ programme
- The cost of treating HPV-related diseases is high: treating anogenital warts alone in the UK is estimated to cost £58 million a year, while the additional cost of vaccinating boys has been estimated to cost about £20 million a year
Source: HPV Action
Gardasil 9 Available Now
Exactly ten years ago, the Fleet Street Clinic became the first practice in the UK to offer the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, even before it became available on the NHS. The new vaccine (Gardasil 9), offers protection against a total of nine HPV strains. This most recent vaccine has been licensed in the USA since December 2014, but is only now being launched in the UK. It is of course available first at the Fleet Street Clinic.
The new HPV vaccine supersedes Cervarix, the 2-strain HPV vaccine introduced as part of the NHS programme, as well as Gardasil, the 4-strain alternative that replaced it. The NHS programme currently targets just adolescent girls, but the Fleet Street Clinic strongly believes this vaccine should be offered more widely, and that there should be a focus on boys as well.
HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections. More than 40 HPV types can be spread through direct sexual contact. Of these, about a dozen, including HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58, are high-risk—that is, persistent infection with these HPV types can cause cellular changes that may progress to cancer, including cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar, and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancers and HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 are responsible for another 20% of cervical cancers.
Gardasil 9 protects against infection with HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 – described in an editorial in theNew England Journal of Medicine as a “milestone in expanding the coverage of cancers associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV)”.
Gardasil 9 is licensed in the UK but is not likely to become available on the NHS for several months. The NHS does not normally offer HPV vaccines to boys or men.
You can find out more about HPV here.