The Terrence Higgins Trust is reiterating calls for the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination programme to include gay and bisexual men following Hollywood actor Michael Douglas’s comments about oral cancer.
In an interview with the Guardian the actor, 68, said his previous battle with throat cancer was caused by a virus he contracted by performing oral sex.
When asked whether he now regretted his years of smoking and drinking – common causes of oral cancer – Douglas replied “No.”
“It’s a sexually transmitted disease,” Douglas said of the human papillomavirus virus.
Dr Michael Brady, who specialises in sexual health as medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), told the Associated Press that oral sex could have contributed to Douglas’s cancer but that it was difficult to pinpoint a single cause.
Jason Warriner, clinical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “HPV is a common virus which is usually harmless but can cause a range of cancers, including oral cancers, in both men and women. While we’re not in a position to comment on the specifics of this case, we welcome more open discussion of this issue.
“We believe men have a right to the same protection from HPV as women. The female HPV vaccination programme indirectly protects men who have sex with women who have been vaccinated. However, men who have sex with women who aren’t vaccinated and men who have sex with men remain at risk. This is particularly concerning given the rates of HPV-related anal cancer among gay men.”
He added: “Terrence Higgins Trust has campaigned for males to be included in the HPV vaccination programme.”
Speaking last week in an interview with ShortList for his latest film Behind the Candelabra, which is about the life of gay American pianist Liberace, Douglas suggested he knew several gay actors who were afraid to be open about their sexuality in case it damaged their careers.