Young gay and bisexual men from minority ethnic and racial backgrounds are at a higher risk of contracting HPV infections than other groups, according to a new study.

The study—which has been published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs—looked at the prevalence of HPV exposure and vaccination as well as HIV infection in gay and bisexual men with an average age of 23. For the study, they collected data predominantly from gay and bisexual men who are members of racial minority groups.

They found that 58 percent of the participants were infected with the virus. Just 18 percent of those who participated in the study had received the HPV vaccine.

HPV virus is more common in gay and bisexual men

HPV is short for human papillomavirus and is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Some types of the virus can lead to cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers also found that neighbourhood poverty and HIV infection were linked to higher rates of anal HPV.

The study’s lead author Perry Halkitis said the higher rates of HPV infections in gay and bisexual men were a “missed prevention opportunity.”

“We know that those living with HIV are much more likely to be impacted by HPV infection and HPV-related cancers.”

– Perry Halkitis, lead author

“We are already witnessing higher rates of HPV-related cancers in older gay and sexual minority men, which is completely avoidable and preventable in more recent generations,” Halkitis said.

“Additionally, we know that those living with HIV are much more likely to be impacted by HPV infection and HPV-related cancers. Given that sexual minority men are also at highest risk for testing positive for HIV, there is an urgency in ensuring HPV vaccination before these young men engage in sexual behaviour.”

Minority gay and bisexual men at higher risk of HPV infection, study says
Amornthep Srina/Pexels

There is a low uptake of HPV vaccine among gay and bisexual men

He continued: “The HPV vaccination was recently expanded to include men and women between ages 27 and 45; previously, it was only approved for men and women ages 9 to 26.”

“With the uptake of the HPV vaccine incredibly low in the United States, there is an urgent need for outreach to at-risk and underserved populations.”

Meanwhile, in England, it was revealed last July that the HPV vaccine would be rolled out to boys in secondary school after recommendations from a key advisory panel.

A routine vaccination programme began in 2008 among school-age girls in the UK to tackle the human papillomavirus, however this was not initially extended to boys on the grounds that men who have sex with women would be protected from transmission through “herd immunity.”

However, this plan left gay and bisexual men vulnerable, which led to the change in policy.

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