HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination has recently been approved for males aged 9-26 years. The vaccine protects men from the papillomavirus which causes genital warts and genital cancers.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Australia and infects 4 in 5 people at some time in their lives.
There are > 40 types of HPV which affect the genital area. The vaccine protects against 4 of the important ones (HPV 6, 11, 16, 18).
The HPV vaccine is provided free for all 12-13 year old girls at school to prevent cancer of the cervix. It can also be given to older women up to and including 45 years.
What are genital warts?
HPV strains 6 and 11 cause genital warts which are flesh or grey coloured, raised or flat growths that appear in the genital area. They are generally considered to be harmless but can be embarrassing and can be passed on to others. They usually appear within 3 months of sexual contact.
Treatment can be uncomfortable and usually involves freezing, burning or cutting the warts. Warts come back in about 25% of cases within 3 months.
A worldwide trial of males aged 16-29 years found that the HPV vaccine was 90% effective in preventing genital warts.
Cancers in men from HPV
Some strains of HPV are important causes of cancer of the penis and anus. Mouth and throat cancers from HPV are also increasingly common due to the practice of oral sex. Men who have sex with men and men with HIV are at particularly high risk.
Vaccination is expected to protect men from many of these cancers which can take decades to develop after infection.
Another reason to vaccinate males is to reduce the risk of passing the virus to women. The vaccine gives protection against HPV 16 and 18 which cause about 70% of cervical cancer in women.
HPV vaccination is most effective when given at around 12–13 years of age before boys become sexually active. However, it can be given up to the age of 26 years.
The vaccine is well tolerated and serious reactions are rare. The most common side-effects are redness, swelling or pain at the injection site, mild fever and headache. Fainting can sometimes occur soon after the injection.
A course of 3 injections is given over 6 months. The vaccine is available for males on a private prescription. Ask your GP about it.
- Please note this information was correct at time of publication.
- For up to date information, speak to your doctor.