There are some vaccinations that gay men should consider having to protect themselves against several preventable STIs. These include hepatitis A and hepatitis B, which both cause inflammation of the liver. The other vaccination that should be considered is for the human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the virus that causes genital and anal warts, and in some cases is associated with certain types of cancer.
Hepatitis A & B
For hepatitis A, two doses of the vaccine are required, the second dose is given 6 to 12 months after the initial vaccination.
For hepatitis B, three doses of the vaccination are required with an interval of 1 to 2 months between the first and the second dose with a third dose at 2 to 5 months after the second dose.
There is also a hepatitis A and B combination vaccination available. Three doses of the vaccine are required; the second dose after 1 month and the third 6 months after the initial vaccination.
For HIV-positive men, hepatitis B antibody level should be tested yearly to check for the need for a booster.
For more information about hepatitis A and B, please go the 'Hepatitis A' and 'Hepatitis B' pages in ‘STIs’ section.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
There is also a vaccination available which protects against several strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), two strains that cause genital and anal warts, and two strains commonly associated with some cancers.
Some strains of this virus have been associated with abnormal cell changes on the penis or anus, as well as the mouth and throat, with a few strongly associated with cancer. These are the same strains of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer in women.
This vaccine has been offered to women, and is now also now indicated for men up to the age of 26. However, it is not currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), so the price is not subsidised.
The vaccine is most effective if given prior to exposure, however, research has shown that even if you have had prior HPV exposure you may still benefit from vaccination.
If you already have one or more of the strains in the vaccine, you will benefit from the prevention of infection and disease from the strains you have not yet been exposed to.
In people with evidence of prior infection, vaccination can help protect from reacquisition or recurrence of infections leading to warts and other cell changes, including cancer. Research is confirming if this may also be the case for people who have undergone treatment for HPV related external genital lesions.
Speak to your doctor about your options for vaccination.
For more information about HPV, please go to the ‘Genital & Anal Warts’ page in ‘STIs’.