Gay men and warts
OPEN WIDE / Why aren’t gay and bisexual men getting free HPV vaccines?
Bill Coleman / Vancouver / Thursday, December 16, 2010
Warts. Warts. Warts. Almost all of us have had them (or have them now).
Warts make wonderful dinner conversation, which can lead to all sorts of interesting discussions about homophobia, anti-gay government policy, fucking, penises, asses, hope, and even cancer and death. Who knew those little pesky spots can have so much effect on gay men?
When I was young, in the middle of the last century, my parents were not so educated and did not know anything about warts. In those days we were told to rub a penny on the wart, bury the penny for six weeks, dig it up, then rub the wart again and it would magically disappear. Now we know that a wart comes from a virus.
Yes, another virus for gay guys to worry about. But this virus has an effective vaccine.
The wart virus is called human papillomavirus, or HPV for short. Gay guys can and do get anal cancer from the HPV (wart) virus, but the BC government will not pay for gay guys to get the vaccine, even though they pay for every school-age female to get it. (Anti-gay government policy? Homophobia?)
Warts are the most common sexually transmitted disease. So if you’ve got warts, you’ve probably been sharing them with your boyfriend. But if almost all of us gay guys have this wart virus, does it really matter?
HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Granted, most gay guys do not have cervixes, but they do have asses. A penis may enter an ass and bring the HPV virus along with it. (See: now we’re on to fucking. And no, you do not have to have a wart on your dick to have the virus.)
If your dick does transmit the wart virus, in five to 10 years there can be big problems. The HPV virus can cause anal cancer.
Dr Joel Palefsky, an infectious disease expert from the University of San Francisco, says, “almost all HIV-positive gay men have HPV in their anus.”
The Vancouver sample of the ManCount survey of gay men shows 79 percent of HIV-positive guys and 62 percent of HIV-negative guys have anal wart virus.
The survey also found that 64 percent of HIV-positive guys and 34 percent of HIV-negative guys have abnormal cells in their anuses, which can lead to anal cancer.
HIV-positive gay men are 10 times more likely to get anal cancer than women are to get cervical cancer.
In a paper published in 2006 by a Vancouver group, gay men were found to be 35 to 70 times more likely to get anal cancer than the general population (Lampinen 2006).
HIV-negative gay men have a rate of anal cancer at 35 per 100,000. Women get cervical cancer from the wart virus at a rate of 8 per 100,000. Is the health of gay men not important to this government? Or are we expendable?
So here it is: there is a vaccine for warts. It is effective. Why not just take the vaccine?
Well, there are two complications. The vaccine works best if you get it before you have the virus in your ass. The BC government will pay for any female under age 26 to be vaccinated against HPV, but they will not do the same for gay guys — even though the vaccine is approved for use in males aged 9 to 26 in Canada. Gay men in the UK have been receiving the HPV vaccine for some time now.
All young gay and bisexual guys in BC should be getting this vaccine, too. But our not-so-gay-friendly healthcare system won’t pay for it.
How many young gay and bisexual guys even think about warts, let alone have $450 lying around to pay for their own vaccines?
I wonder if our health minister thinks you deserve to get cancer and die if you let some guy put his dick in your ass.
Why is no one standing up and demanding proper healthcare for gay men? It is time to speak out to demand proper treatment from our medical health system. We will not be heard by being quiet, by being nice. It is time to act!
Lobby the health minister, talk to your doctor, and ask your doctor if you need to be examined for HPV virus in your anus