Why Men Should Get the HPV Vaccine
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Why Men Should Get the HPV Vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection. Currently, an estimated 20 million Americans carry one of the 40 varieties of the infection, with 6 million new infections occurring anually. The overwhelming majority of people carrying HPV show no symptoms and therefore are more likely to communicate the disease to others.

While the most common symptom of HPV infection are warts in the affected area (including the penis, vulva, anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum), there are four varieties of HPV linked to various forms of cancer. Safe-sex practices like the proper use of condoms reduces the likelihood of transmission, but does not eliminate it as the virus can spread during sexual contact to those areas not protected by the condom. Currently, there is a vaccine called Gardasil for these four cancer-causing strains of the virus but it is only FDA approved for sponsorship in the United States for female patients. While cervical cancer is the most common form of cancer to result from HPV infection, thousands of men are diagnosed yearly with penile and anal cancer, many of whom also carry the virus.

While research into the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in men is still ongoing, early results from studies conducted by the Merck Corporation (which makes the vaccine) as well as independent research conducted by facilities like the Medical College of Georgia have shown the vaccine to be safe and effective for use by men and boys.

It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that half of all sexually active men and women, regardless of sexual orientation, will be exposed to HPV some time in their lives. Those studies conducted on the effectiveness of the vaccine in women have shown functionally perfect (approximately 100%) success in eliminating the virus.

Further development of the vaccine has shown positive results in eliminating many of the other, non-cancer-causing strains of HPV. This means that it is highly likely that we will witness the eradication of a sexually transmitted infection within a single generation. This likelihood will only increase if the vaccine is made available to males, who are no more or less likely to contract the virus. Unless the current studies, which have been going on since 2004, show a danger that has yet to present itself, it would be only medically and socially responsible to make the human papillomavirus vaccine available to males.

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