United States, Canada, Australia, and Austria are several countries that vaccinate both girls and boys against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This decision is smart because HPV is the cause of several serious diseases and cancers. This virus has the ability to transmit from person to person via contact. Compared to HIV, which can be thwarted with a condom, HPV is much more resilient and sturdy. The virus can lie dormant for years only to appear later in life as rapidly multiplying cancer cells in various parts of the body, such as the penis, the anus, the tongue, and the mouth. If the virus doesn’t appear as cancer, it often appears as warts in the urogenital region. The vaccine given by the countries listed above is effective and has the ability to prevent various cancers and serious negative outcomes. Those who aren’t vaccinated and test positive for the virus are sentenced to a life of continuous antiviral treatment and symptomatic treatment. In short, once infected the virus never leaves the body. All of these reasons easily explain why vaccinating against this virus is so important.
However, what happens if you only vaccinate 50% of the populations? Several doctors have recently openly condemned the UK government for failing to provide the HPV vaccine to adolescent boys and in turn sentencing many gay and bisexual men to suffer from preventable diseases and cancers. Every year 2,000 men are diagnosed with cancers caused by HPV, many of these men are gay and bisexual. The girls receiving the vaccine are protected for life, but boys who later grow up and sleep with other men or unvaccinated women are at risk of contracting the virus. While contraceptives make a dent in the infection rate, the doctors condemning the Ministry of Health all say that not vaccinating adolescent boys the same way that adolescent girls are vaccinated is not only discriminatory but bad science and bad public health policy. Some say that the governments actions are bordering on criminal. While criminal charges are not in the near future, hopefully a change in the vaccination schedules comes soon.
- Nalani Wakinekona