Why Aren’t They Giving the HPV Vaccine to Boys Who Might Be Gay?

By Editor Editor · Monday, October 19, 2009

Know what the human papillomavirus does to men? Besides upping the chances for throat and oral cancer? It creates those nasty warts around, on, and inside your anus, should you ever have the misfortune of contracting HPV. Which a very good number of you will. So why aren’t little boys being vaccinated against HPV the same way girls are?

Because only boys who grow up to have sex with other (now adult) boys are really at risk for these sort of things.

The HPV vaccine that’s being administered to prepubescent girls should be enough to eventually stem, or kill entirely, the transmission of the virus, researchers believe. That’s because if you eradicate HPV among the entire female population, there will be nobody to transmit it to the men these girls will have sex with.

Great in theory! Except HPV will still thrive among men who have sex with men. Oh, and some of those men then go home to have sex with their wives and girlfriends.

So how come leading medical researchers aren’t recommending little boys get vaccinated too? Hint: It’s not because they’re worried it’ll make them more promiscuous.

Despite finding that “recent data on the use of the HPV vaccine in males suggest high efficacy against vaccine type infections and external genital lesions,” the authors of a study published in the British Medical Journal conclude that boys don’t need to be vaccinated. Sounds strange us to male homos, who won’t benefit from a female population that’s free of HPV. Notes Slate‘s William Saletan:

Why vaccinate girls but not boys? The authors cite several factors. First, HPV is more likely to harm girls. Second, the vaccine is more effective in girls. Third, the rate of viral transmission depends on the virus’s prevalence “in the opposite sex at any given time.” If girls are routinely vaccinated, there’s nothing for boys to catch or transmit.

In other words, boys don’t have to get vaccinated for the same reason they don’t have to wash dishes, do laundry, buy birth control, or think about other people in general: Girls will do it for them.

Why do HPV vaccines work better in girls than in boys? Because they were designed for and tested in girls. It’s true that HPV affects girls more than boys, but the same can be said of pregnancy. There’s still a male in the equation somewhere. Boys certainly share the pleasure. Why not share the responsibility? And what about that infant respiratory condition? Shouldn’t men do their part to prevent it?

But it’s not like the study’s authors are completely unaware of the gay factor:

The authors of the BMJ paper concede that they “only represented heterosexual partnerships and therefore did not reflect HPV transmission among men who have sex with men, who face a high risk of anal cancer and may realise a greater benefit from HPV vaccination.” But the argument for vaccinating gay men isn’t just that they might benefit. It’s that vaccinating women won’t help them. They can’t count on somebody else to take care of the problem.

What would happen to straight men if women weren’t vaccinated? The authors played out that scenario in their mathematical models. “If coverage in girls ends up being low, then vaccinating boys became much more attractive,” the lead author concedes.

We’re not scientists, but here’s what we heard: Vaccinating women won’t benefit gay men, but there’s still no reason to vaccinate men who might grow up to sleep with other dudes

We can’t tell if this is an instance of tainted (dare we say, queer-phobic?) scientific conclusions, or utter ignorance to the fact that HPV spreads very easily among the gays, and wreaks havoc on their butts and mouths. But if the medical field has a HPV vaccine that does, in fact, work with men, we want it. And no, not just so we can have more sex with fewer risks.

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