Boys ages 11 through 21 should start getting vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a suggestion released last week by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vaccination provides many benefits for males, as well as females, who have been encouraged to receive them since the introduction of the Gardasil immunization in 2006. Since 2009, Cervarix, another vaccination, has been licensed for females, and Gardasil has been licensed for males, according to the CDC.
HPV, the most common sexually transmitted disease, affects 75 to 80 percent of males and females at some point in their lives, according to the New York Times. In some cases of infection, there are no symptoms. But in others, the infection leads to cancer, with 15,000 cases for women and 7,000 cases for men reported each year, according to the Times.
Head and neck cancers and anal cancers associated with oral and anal sex, respectively, may also be caused by HPV infections. Early vaccination is key, as it is less effective if given after sexual activity begins.
While the vaccination may be potentially expensive, costing more than $300 depending on insurance, protecting against cancer is priceless. A few hundred dollars spent on vaccinations pales in comparison to the high cost of cancer treatments, or even the pain and price associated with having genital warts removed.
While some parents may feel uncomfortable with vaccinating their sons, believing that the only boys who need it are homosexual, this is both a false and unfounded worry. Receiving the vaccine would help males’ sexual partners regardless of gender, according to the Times, as oral sex has become more popular, and males are equally susceptible to getting cancer from the disease.
The vaccine also encourages male responsibility and egalitarian sex. Giving the vaccine to all sexes can pave the way for new technologies, such as male hormonal contraceptives, that will allow men to begin taking equal partnership in preventing pregnancy and STDs.
An injectable implant for men similar to Norplant, a long-term hormonal birth control placed under the skin of women’s arms, is on its way to approval, Dr. Christina Wang, who is running clinical trials on the implant at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, said to MSNBC. Several other male contraceptives, such as pills, patches and creams, are being researched and are also on their way to approval.
These male hormonal contraceptives are reversible, and much like the HPV vaccine for males, they allow men to protect the sexual health of themselves and others, finally making a historically female issue one for both sexes.
Jessica Schoenfeld is a sophomore majoring in sociology and women’s and gender studies.