So, last Friday, 15 February 2013, the Federal Government scheme providing Gardasil vaccinations to teenage boys commenced.
I have written about this issue before (in my Top 12 moments of 2012), but I think it bears repeating – this is an absolutely fantastic initiative, and one that will save the lives of many, many gay and bisexual men in the future.
The fact that Gardasil was provided only to girls up to now is a direct result of the decision made by the then-Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, under the Howard Liberal-National Government in 2007. That decision, which attempted to redefine Gardasil as being a vaccine against cervical cancer first and foremost, effectively disregarded the mounting evidence that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of many cancers (genital, anal, mouth and throat), in both men and women.
By subsidising Gardasil vaccination for teenage girls, Abbott and Howard may have been saving the lives of many women from cervical cancer, but at the same time, by denying the same vaccination for teenage boys, Abbott and Howard were condemning gay men, bisexual men and MSMs generally to an unncessary risk of cancer in the future. Theirs was a homophobic decision which has jeopardised the health of many gay and bisexual men, simply because of their own personal distaste and discomfort for homosexual intercourse. When boys who could have been subsidised during that time die of these preventable cancers in the future, both Abbott and Howard will have blood on their hands.
On the flipside, the current Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, will be responsible for saving the lives of many gay and bisexual men in future by expanding this scheme to provide Gardasil to school-age boys. Thank you Minister for this decision, which will hopefully inspire other countries around the world to do the same thing, and save as many gay and bisexual men from these unnecessary cancers as possible.
The text of Tanya Plibersek’s media release is included below.
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Minister for Health
15 February 2013
Boys get their world-first dose of Gardasil ® to protect against HPV
Australian schoolboys have begun receiving the first of three vaccinations to protect them against cancers and disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said today. Ms Plibersek said more than 280,000 boys will be eligible for the free Gardasil® vaccine this year, which is estimated to prevent a quarter of new HPV infections. Vaccination will protect boys from cancer and genital warts, and continue to reduce the rates of cervical cancer among women. In a world first announced in July, schoolboys will join more than one million Australian girls aged 12-16 years who have already been fully vaccinated against HPV under the school vaccination program. “The HPV vaccine is the best protection against the HPV virus; a virus that infects four out of five sexually active people at some point in their lives and is linked to cancer and other disease.” “Because of our work in this area, Australia’s HPV vaccine coverage rates are among the best in the world, resulting in a significant drop in HPV-related infections.” Since the HPV vaccination program started in 2007 there has been a reduction in HPV-related infections in young women and a reduced incidence of genital warts in males and females. There has also been a reduction in pre-cancerous lesions in young women. “We’re confident that extending the program to males will reduce HPV-related cancers and disease in the future,” Ms Plibersek said. More than 400,000 boys and girls will start to have their first vaccination this month, with follow up doses from April and August. The vaccinations will be delivered by qualified immunisation providers in all states and territories, but only if parents and guardians provide their consent. The Gillard government is working with all states and territories to implement the HPV school vaccination program.
Parents, students and health professionals can find more information about the HPV school vaccination program at australia.gov.au/hpv.
Further information: A media website, with the eligible state and territory year groups and downloadable audio and video clips from HPV experts, is available at hpv.health.gov.au/media.