The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available in Scotland for men up to and including 45 years old who have sex with men (MSM).
The vaccine will help prevent HPV infection, which can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. It’s especially important for those who are living with HIV, and those who have more than one sexual partner.
The vaccine is available from sexual health and HIV clinics. Please ask your sexual health doctor or nurse about the other vaccines recommended for MSM that help protect against hepatitis A and B infections.
What is HPV and what diseases can it cause?
HPV is a very common virus which usually has no symptoms. Nearly all sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives.
Most often people do not realise that they are carrying the virus. For the majority of people, HPV clears up quickly.
Carrying HPV makes you more likely to develop certain types of cancers. These include head and neck cancers and anogenital cancers - for example anal cancer and penile (penis) cancer.
The HPV vaccine also protects you against over 90% of genital wart infections.
How is HPV infection spread?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. HPV is usually spread through intimate sexual contact, not just anal and vaginal sex. Genital HPV infections are highly contagious.
Can HPV infection be prevented?
Condoms don't guarantee protection from infection. This is because HPV can be transmitted by skin to skin contact with areas not covered by condoms.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from HPV infection is to get the vaccine.
Who is offered the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is offered to MSM up to and including 45 years old attending sexual health and HIV clinics across Scotland. This is because MSM attending sexual health and HIV clinics are known to have a higher risk of HPV infection.
Since 2019, the HPV vaccine has been offered to boys in S1 at secondary school. It will take a number of years before direct protection from this programme is seen in MSM.
The HPV vaccine is a very effective way to reduce your risk of genital warts and your risk of developing cancer caused by HPV.