HPV? What does it mean?
By Dr. Tom McQuaid.
Human Papilloma Viruses know collectively by the title HPV are responsible for a large percentage of rectal, penile, and head/neck cancers. Men who have Sex with Men (MSM’s), especially those that are HIV positive are at increased risk for becoming infected with strains of HPV and therefore have increased risk for these types of cancers. The Nanovalent HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way of preventing the likelihood of acquiring 9 strains of HPV including some of the types most likely to cause cancer in addition to some of those that cause visible genital warts.
Up until this past year it was thought that it probably wasn’t worth vaccinating older MSM’s as they probably would already have acquired HPV and the ability of the vaccine to eliminate a strain of HPV once it has already been acquired is not known. Now it is known that it is unlikely that anyone has acquired all 9 strains of HPV the vaccine protects against, that even if you have a strain of HPV infecting at one site (for example your rectum) the vaccine my protect you from acquiring that strain at a second site (for example your penis). In addition it is possible although not proven that having the vaccine may help your immune system try to eliminate the virus from an already infected site.
What does all this mean?
If you are a man that has sex with men, you are at increased risk for rectal, penile and head/neck cancers from HPV infection
It means if you are an MSM and under the age of 45 you should consider getting the HPV nanovalent vaccine if you haven’t gotten it already (even if you’ve already gotten the quadrivalent HPV vaccine) as it will likely decrease your risk of penile, rectal, and head/neck cancers.
The vaccine may not eliminate strains of HPV you already have but you are unlikely to have all the strains the vaccine protects against.
The sooner you get the vaccine the more likely you will have an effective response and the less likely you will be to have new strains of HPV that the vaccine might protect you from.
Insurance may or may not cover the vaccine for you ask you healthcare provider for more information.