HPV vaccine not just for women anymore

By Geoffrey Cunningham
On March 30, 2010

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S, and affects both men and women. Up until recently, the two vaccines that exist for the disease were available to women only. A few months ago, however, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of Gardasil for men ages nine to 26, and

UNH Health Services now offers the vaccine for male students on campus.
According to the CDC's web site, HPV is so common in the U.S. that 50 percent of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives. There are over 100 types of HPV, which can cause a number of medical conditions such as cervical cancer, genital warts and penile and anal cancer.

Dr. Lessa Brill, a women's health doctor at Health Services, said that HPV is very prevalent in today's society.

"I think of it as a marker for sexual activity," said Brill. "If there's going to be genital to genital contact, unless both partners haven't had any other partners before, there's a really good chance that there'll be HPV around."

Kathleen Grace-Bishop, director of Education and Promotion at Health Services, said in an email that she is happy with the new offer.

"I think that it is great that the HPV vaccine, which has now been approved for both males and females (ages 9-26) is available through Health Services," said Grace-Bishop. "It provides access to students around an important option for females and males to help them care for themselves and their partners."

The Gardasil vaccine involves three doses, given through shots, over a period of six months. For students who have paid the health fee, the cost of the vaccine is $151 per dose. For those students who haven't paid the health fee, it costs $165 per dose. A student's health insurance may cover the cost of the vaccine. UNH insurance does not cover the vaccine.

"There is also the issue of cost and whether or not insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine whether it is provided here or through a outside health care provider," said Grace-Bishop.

Brill said that for men, HPV is implicated in 88 percent of anal cancers and 80 percent of penile cancer. But in many cases, people are not aware that they have HPV because symptoms are not visible and may not even affect them, she said.

"Most people will get it," said Brill. "But most people will never ever know and it will never cause them any trouble."

Brill said that male students had come to Health Services asking for the vaccine before it was even approved.

"It's not huge," said Brill. "But there's definitely a demand for it."

Grace-Bishop said that the key to getting more people vaccinated is education.

"The availability of the vaccine to males is very new and information and education on HPV, risk and the vaccine itself will need to occur and it will take time to get the word out to males," Grace-Bishop said.

Follow Geoffrey Cunningham on Twitter at twitter.com/geoffc2112

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