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