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'Boys should be given HPV jab'

Schoolboys should also be given the HPV vaccine, public and sexual health bodies have claimed. 

Currently the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is given to girls aged 12-13 in the UK, to prevent cervical cancer. 

HPV infections are associated with cancer of the penis, vulva, vagina, anus, mouth and throat. 

Australia is currently the only country to routinely offer the vaccination to both boys and girls. 

But the Faculty of Public Health and the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) said that boys should also be vaccinated. 

Professor John Ashton, the head of the Faculty of Public Health, told the BBC: "It seems oral sex has become a very common part of the repertoire in young people and it does seem a likely part of the story of increases in oral cancer.

"We really need to discuss oral sex as part of sex education in schools and to look closely at extending the vaccine to all men."

According to Professor Ashton, the reduced risk of cancer would benefit all men, but the strongest case was for gay men. 

BASHH president Dr Janet Wilson said: "We need to take action to address the lack of protection men who have sex with men receive from the current all-girls HPV vaccination programme.

"It is unfair that they remain unprotected."

The Department of Health said there is no plan to extend the programme as it had not been recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. 

The spokesman said: “Once 80% coverage among girls has been achieved, there is little benefit in vaccinating boys to prevent cervical cancer in girls."