HPV awareness

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2014 National LGBT Conference
26 September 2014

Conference notes that in recent years a vaccination has become available for some of the commonest strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is a complex of virus strains which can infect humans without visible symptoms for many years. Some cause common complaints such as cold sores, warts and verrucae. About a dozen HPV types are called “high-risk” types because they can lead to cervical cancer, as well as anal cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, and penile cancer.

Several types of HPV have been found to be associated with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer (OSCC), a form of head and neck cancer. Oral infection with HPV increases the risk of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer independent of tobacco and alcohol use. In the United States, HPV is expected to replace tobacco as the main causative agent for oral cancer.

Sexually transmitted HPVs also cause a major fraction of anal cancers and approximately 25% of cancers of the mouth and upper throat (the oropharynx). Anal sex or oral sex with an HPV-infected partner may increase the risk of developing these types of cancers. The risk for anal cancer is 17 to 31 times higher among men who have sex with men, as compared to men who do not have sex with men.

Conference further notes that the current Westminster government has decided that it would be too expensive to offer this immunisation to everyone. The National Health Service only routinely offers vaccinations to young girls and women under 26 years old. Conference is concerned that whilst this offers some protection to this group, it does nothing for anyone older or any men who have sex with men.

Conference therefore calls upon the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) committee and regional LGBT groups to raise awareness of these issues and investigate the availability of the HPV vaccinations and anal pap smear test in their regions to assist the national LGBT committee in deciding whether and how this issue should be pursued.