The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine's now available in Scotland for men who have sex with men (MSM) up to and including 45 years of age.
The vaccine will help prevent HPV infection, which can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. It’s especially important for those who are living with HIV, and those who've more than one sexual partner.
The vaccine's available from sexual health and HIV clinics.
What's HPV and how does it spread?
HPV's very common and you can catch it through intimate sexual contact with another person who already has it.
There are over 200 types of HPV. Because it's so common, most people will get infected at some point in their life. People are often infected without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms and infections tend to go away on their own.
HPV's the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. HPV's spread mainly by skin-to-skin contact, not just anal and vaginal sex. Genital HPV infections are highly contagious and usually associated with sexual contact. Nearly all sexually active people get infected with HPV at some point in their lives. The risk increases with the number of sexual partners you and/or your partners have.
What diseases can it cause?
HPV infections that persist can lead to cancers – anal, throat and penile (penis) cancers in men, and cervical cancer in women. Other types of HPV infection can cause genital warts.
Can HPV infection be prevented?
Condoms don't guarantee protection from infection. This is because HPV can be transmitted by skin contact with areas not covered by condoms.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from HPV infection is to get the vaccine. The vaccine protects against 4 types of HPV (types 6, 11, 16 and 18) that can cause cancer and genital warts.
Why should MSM attending sexual health and HIV clinics be immunised?
MSM attending sexual health and HIV clinics are known to have a higher risk of HPV infection and disease.
The risk of anal cancer in MSM is higher than in heterosexual men. This is because MSM aren't getting the protection that heterosexual men are getting from the girls' immunisation programme operating in Scotland since 2008. If you're living with HIV, this risk is higher again.
HPV immunisation's a very effective way to reduce your risk of genital warts and your risk of developing cancer caused by HPV.