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Young gay men should get HPV jab

The human papillomavirus (HPV) jab should be offered to young gay men because they have an increased risk of developing cancer, research has shown. 

According to a study published in Sexually Transmitted Infections, young gay men are 15 times more likely to develop genital cancer than straight men. 

The researchers claim that it would be more cost effective to the NHS to offer young gay men the HPV vaccine than to treat cancers.  

With more than 17,000 gay men aged between 16 and 26 visiting sexual health clinics in England per year, the researchers argue that they would be “ideally placed”. 

The vaccine is most effective in those who are not already infected with HPV, but evidence shows that only a minority of young men who have sex with men (MSM) are. 

Data from the UK's Health Protection Agency (now part of Public Health England) showed that fewer than one in 20 men under the age of 25 had been infected by any high risk HPV strain.

The researchers said: “In the light of this evidence, and in the absence of universal vaccination of boys, the argument for introducing targeted HPV vaccination for [men who have sex with men] up to age 26 years is strong.”

The vaccine covers HPV 16 and 18, the two strains which account for most of the cancers associated with the infection. 

The vaccination programme against HPV infection began in 2008 in the UK, but only among girls, on the grounds that this would curb the spread of the infection to boys as well.