Not For Women Only
The most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the world, the human Papillomavirus (HPV), affects both sexes. Until a short time ago, HPV vaccines were available only to women. However, a short time ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave approval to Gardasil as an HPV vaccine for men aged 9-26.
University health centers are beginning to offer the vaccine on campus for their male students. The CDC's website states that HPV is so common within the U.S. that half of all sexually active people will contract HPV during their lifetimes. There are now more than 100 known strains of HPV and these can cause a variety of associated medical conditions and complications, for instance genital warts or cervical, penile, or anal cancers.
Dr. LessaBrill, a doctor at the University of New Hampshire Health Services says that HPV is pervasive in today's world. "I think of it as a marker for sexual activity," said Brill. "If there’s going to be genital-to-genital contact, unless both partners haven’t had any other partners before, there’s a really good chance that there’ll be HPV around."
The director of the UNH Education and Promotion department for its Health Services, Kathleen Grace-Bishop, issued the following statement by email: "I think that it is great that the HPV vaccine, which has now been approved for both males and females (ages 9-26) is available through Health Services," said Grace-Bishop. "It provides access to students around an important option for females and males to help them care for themselves and their partners."
The Gardasil vaccine is given in three doses, by injection, over the course of six months. For those students who are paid up on their health fees, the cost for the vaccine comes to $151 for each dose. For other students, the cost will be $165 per dose. It is possible that a student's individual health insurance will cover costs. For some struggling students, the cost may prove prohibitive.
According to Brill, HPV is linked to 88% of anal cancers and 80% of penile cancer cases. But since HPV is often asymptomatic, many may never be aware they have the STD or be troubled by its ill-effects or complications.
Meantime, Brill says that male students were asking for the vaccine even before it passed muster with the CDC. It seems that public education on STD's may finally be sinking in. After all, penile cancer is an awfully scary thing to imagine, if you're a guy.