Jab for gay boys under study

By Lynley Bilby

Health initiative proposes vaccination priority for males from the age of 11 who identify as homosexual.

Health officials are considering making HPV vaccination available for young gay males.  Photo / Natalie Slade
Health officials are considering making HPV vaccination available for young gay males. Photo / Natalie Slade

Health experts want to target boys from the age of 11 who identify as gay to be first for vaccinating against genital warts and a range of cancers.

The Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee is considering whether males aged between 11 and 25 who identify as men who have sex with men should be given priority for a publicly funded human papillomarvirus (HPV) vaccination.

Experts say targeting such a specific group before they become sexually active poses problems despite the potential for their being at high risk of contracting warts and anal and throat cancers.

Gay youth advocacy group Rainbow Youth welcomes the health initiative but warns of any actions that further isolate young gay people.

The Government funds Gardasil for girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years to ward off cervical cancer.

As well as preventing cervical cancer, it also reduces the risk of genital warts in the same age group and the advisory committee wants to extend the protection to boys.

Minutes from PTAC's Immunisation Subcommittee meeting state the cost of vaccinating all boys will be substantial. Those at greatest risk from disease are gay teens and young adults as they receive no "herd immunity" from contact with immunised females. But targeted funding will require males to approach services and identify themselves in the target group. Immunisation Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner says that will be "very tricky". She says it is important males can get the HPV vaccination before they are regularly sexually active and exposed to HPV.

She favours vaccinating a slightly older age group when boys are more aware of their sexuality.

Rainbow Youth chairman Duncan Matthews says it is hard to discern future sexual behaviour and boys under 16 who know they are gay will still need parental consent.

- Herald on Sunday

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