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:
- genital warts
- anal cancer
- throat cancer
- penile cancer
The risk of anal cancer in MSM 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 MSM 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 have the most protection, it’s important to get the full course of vaccination. Most men who have sex with men receive three doses of the vaccine within twelve months.
If you’re under 15, you need two doses six months apart.
Side effects of the HPV vaccine
The vaccine is given as an injection in the arm. The side effects are:
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 MSM
- MSM over 45 years old
- sex workers