It may cost too much to save gay men from anal cancer

UK health bosses: It may cost too much to save gay men from anal cancer

Decision to vaccinate gay and bi men to protect them delayed

Human Papillomavirus: Causes warts, anal, oral, penile and cervical cancers but can be prevented by immunisation.

A decision to start a vaccination program to stop gay and bi men getting anal cancer has been delayed by UK health officials.

The reason? Because it may not be ‘cost effective’.

All girls aged 12 to 13 already get the vaccines which stop them getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) and developing genital warts and cervical cancer.

The idea was to extend that to all boys of the same age. But that decision has been put off until 2017.

In the mean time, the UK Committee on Vaccination and Immunization was expected to at least approve giving the life-saving jabs to men who have sex with men.

Clinicians say the rates of HPV and the cancers it causes in gay and bi men are the same as the rates in women before they started the nationwide vaccination program.

That, campaigners argue, makes this a clear gay health inequality.

But minutes released by the committee today say that feedback that more people should be vaccinated would push up the price of the jabs.

They even say it might be cheaper to let gay men get anal cancer and then treat it, rather than prevent it. They say fewer would die than they previously thought.

‘More recently published data on chemotherapy for anal cancer… showed improved survival,’ the minutes argue.

Their decision to gather more data on the vaccination’s cost-effectiveness pushes an eventual decision to the tail end of 2015 – after the General Election.

Even then, there is no guarantee they will agree to the vaccinations.

Dr Shaun Griffin, director of external affairs at sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘We are hugely disappointed that a much needed decision to introduce HPV vaccination for gay and bisexual men has once again been pulled further from our grasp.

‘Each delay leaves this group unprotected against HPV-related cancers. These inequalities urgently need to be addressed.

‘We believe that the HPV vaccine should be extended to all boys irrespective of their sexuality.

‘Until that happens, if the government is serious about improving the health of gay and bisexual men, a program targeted at them specifically would be a good place to start, given their increased risk.’

UK figures from 2011 show 47,500 men get genital warts each year, and over 2,000 contract anal, oral or penile cancers as a result.

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