With women most often being mentioned when it comes to the Human Papollomavirus, the new campaign Get Garded will focus on high numbers in the gay and bisexual male community.
It’s not common knowledge that 60% of gay and bisexual men and nearly 80% of men who are HIV positive have HPV, according to Michael Kwag, knowledge translation manager with Health Initiative for Men.
HIM, Vancouver Coastal Health and the Fraser Health Authority have spearheaded the campaign to increase awareness about HPV and the Gardasil vaccine, Kwag said.
The HPV infection is associated with up to 90% of anal cancers, up to 50% of penile cancers, 35% of throat cancers and 25% of mouth cancers — and Kwag said gay men are 20 times more likely to develop anal cancer in comparison to the general population.
“It’s quite understandable that many gay men would be unaware that HPV is a significant issue for them,” he said.
“This is just a really novel issue and no one is really talking about this in the context of men.”
Kwag said it’s the first such campaign in Canada targeting this group for HPV awareness, and they’ve been approached to do similar campaigns in other regions across the country.
Fraser Health Authority’s Dr. Michelle Murti said men going to clinics were unaware that HPV is a highly recommended vaccine.
“Men who have sex with men certainly have much higher incidents of HPV-related cancers,” she said.
How many men are accessing the HPV vaccine in unknown because it’s still not publicly funded, according to Murti. The vaccine is paid for out-of-pocket or is covered by private health insurance.
“People working in immunizations have recommended this is something we should be looking at in B.C. and some other provinces have made it publicly available to men,” Murti said.
“It’s certainly being advocated and it’s really just at the final ministry level to look at if this is something the province is willing to fund at this time.”
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection with many strains widespread among adults, which is linked to the development of genital warts, and oral and genital cancers.