It is likely to be 2020 before the introduce HPV vaccination for boys.
The HPV virus infects 50% of all people who have had sex at some time in their lives, even only oral sex. There are many strains of HPV but the most dangerous strain is HPV 16 which causes cervical cancer and oral cancer. It can be spread by open mouthed kissing (ref to lancet*) and oral sex. Just because you have theHPV 16 virus does not mean that you will develop oral cancer. That is dependent upon your immune system. Men are more likely to contract HPV related oral cancer than women by a ratio of 3:1.
Currently in the UK only girls aged 12/13 are vaccinated against HPV. The thinking is that by vaccinating enough girls ‘herd immunity’ will protect the boys. Apparently over 80% of girls take up the vaccination but there are many geographical, social and ethnic minority communities where take up is much lower.
Many do not have the vaccination due to the perceived negative impact of the vaccine on the sexual conduct of adolescent girls. Many parents do not realise that the virus can be spread by open mouthed kissing. I didn’t know that fact until now!
Do I therefore warn my son off any sexual contact with these communities which are outside the herd? Apparently uptake is lower in Cornwall so should he stay away from girls from Cornwall?
How will my son know which of the 20% of the girls in the UK population didn’t have the vaccination and are possibly carrying the HPV virus that could give him penile or mouth cancer? Should he quiz a potential girl friend as to her sexual experiences before he starts going out with her? Can he rely on her to be truthful or more fundamentally should he have to? He has a 4 out of 5 chance of picking the right girl so that’s ok is it?
Apparently only 19 of the 29 countries in the EU have vaccination programs and coverage in many of those countries is low? We have many foreign students in the UK studying in our colleges and Universities.
Research has also shown a link between the smoking of Marijuana and contracting HPV mouth cancer. Apparently the cannabinoids in Cannabis suppress the immune system allowing the HPV to develop into cancer. I had better keep my Son away from College altogether to be safe.
What about if he fancies a girl from a foreign country with no vaccination program or poor take up? Apparently only 33% of teenage girls in the USA complete the course of three vaccinations. Best to not let him go on holiday abroad with his mates at all. I am pleased to note that Australia vaccinate girls and boys so a Gap year in OZ could still be on the cards.
What if my Son is gay? I don’t think he is but he may have lots of things going on in his life and his head that I do not know about. He knows what being gay is and knows that it would not be an issue that should worry him in our household. If he is gay he will have no protection against HPV. By me giving him the vaccine privately am I saying that I think he might be gay? Is that what people will think? Narrow minded and uninformed people might very well have such a negative view.
I believe that my son should take responsibility for his own sexual health. He knows about using a condom if he has sexual intercourse but what about oral sex?
Many teenagers engage in oral sex prior to full sexual intercourse and will not use a condom. Oral sex is one of the most prevalent way that HPV is transmitted. Both Girls and Boys may have HPV and can pass it on. HPV is believed to be the causal agent in 5% of all human cancers and 90% of oropharyngeal cancers and the rates are growing fast.
Vaccinating only girls puts the emphasis on girls to be responsible for the sexual health of our nation. Girls are already expected to be primarily responsible for preventing pregnancy by taking the pill, isn’t it fair to let our Son’s play their part in the sexual health of our nation?
The USA, Canada and Australia all vaccinate their boys for HPV. They have read the same research and come to the conclusion that their sons need protection so why haven’t we?
Thankfully at the moment my son is more interested in football than foreplay but for his 12th birthday he will be getting the HPV vaccination as well as FIFA14 for his playstation.
*Marur, S., D’Souza, G., Westra, W., Forastiere, A. “HPV-associated head
and neck cancer: a virus-related cancer epidemic.” Lancet Oncology 6 May
2010: 11:781-89. Web. 23 March 2013.