HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available from specialist sexual health (genito-urinary medicine or GUM) clinics for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) who are up to and including 45 years of age. It can protect you against genital warts and HPV-associated cancers.
How HPV is spread
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
You can become infected if you're sexually active with another person who already has the virus.
The virus spreads by skin-to-skin contact.
The risk of infection increases with the number of sexual partners you or your partners have.
You can still become infected if you use condoms because the virus can spread in contact with skin not covered by a condom.
How HPV affects your health
The virus can cause:
The risk of anal cancer in GBMSM is higher than in heterosexual men.
The risk increases if you also have HIV.
What the vaccine does
You can protect yourself against HPV infection by getting the HPV vaccine. This protects against:
- HPV types 6 and 11 which cause genital warts
- HPV types 16 and 18 which cause most HPV-related cancers
Getting the vaccine
The vaccine is available to GBMSM aged up to 45 years old who go to a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or HIV clinic.
Ideally you should get vaccinated before you become sexually active. But there is still good protection in getting vaccinated if you're already sexually active.
To get the vaccine, ask your nurse or doctor in the GUM or HIV clinic you go to.
When the vaccine is given
To be protected you need to complete the full course of the vaccine.
The number of doses of HPV vaccine you will receive depends on your age and your health.
Those aged under 25 years old need only one dose.
If you are aged 25 years and over (up to 46th birthday), you will receive a course of two doses given at least six months apart.
If you are HIV+ or have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised) you will require three doses of vaccine at zero, one and four to six months.
Side effects of the HPV vaccine
Like most injections, the side effects of the HPV vaccination are quite mild.
Soreness, swelling and redness in the arm are common, but wear off in a few days.
More serious side effects are extremely rare.
The vaccine has passed the strict safety standards for use in the UK and has been shown to be a very safe vaccine.
Millions of doses of vaccine have already been given to girls and boys in the UK and around the world.
As with all vaccines, any reports of side effects are closely monitored and reviewed.
Other people who might receive the HPV vaccine
A doctor or nurse in a sexual health clinic might also offer the vaccine to:
- HIV-positive women
- HIV-positive men who aren’t GBMSM
- GBMSM over 45 years old
- sex workers