Ontario to allow gay men to receive free HPV vaccination

A Sudbury public health nurse says expanding Ontario's human papillomavirus vaccine to gay, bisexual, and transgender men is a huge step forward.

'We're not stigmatizing young women anymore,' says Sudbury communicable disease nurse

Ontario recently announced that this fall teen boys will receive the HPV vaccine. Previously, only girls were vaccinated. (Valentin Flauraud/Reuters)
Expanding Ontario's human papillomavirus vaccine to gay, bisexual, and transgender men is a huge step forward according to one Sudbury public health nurse. 
Gay, bisexual and transgender men will soon be the first adult group in Ontario to receive a free HPV vaccination for free. We spoke with Justeen Mansourian-Christakos, an infectious disease nurse, about why the province is targeting this group of people.

The shot, that normally costs $450 without insurance, will be made available to LGBT men 26 years old and younger.

Justeen Mansourian-Christakos, a communicable diseases nurse at the Sudbury and District Health Unit, said until recently, only teen girls could receive the vaccine for free through the province's immunization program.

But that meant the onus was on women to be protected against the sexually transmitted infection. It also meant that men were not protected at all.

Listen to Morning North host Markus Schwabe discuss free HPV vaccine for gay, bisexual and transgender men in Ontario

"We're not stigmatizing young women anymore," Mansourian-Christakos said. "We're not going to negate the importance of men's health and discriminate against men who have sex with men."

Gay and bisexual men three times more likely to get HPV 

Gay, bisexual, and transgender men are three times more likely to get HPV compared to heterosexual men, Mansourian-Christakos said.

"We know without immunizing, three out of every four sexually active gay, bisexual, or MSM [men who have sex with men] individuals will get HPV in their lifetime," Mansourian-Christakos said.

That means their risk of cancers associated with the sexually transmitted infection also increases.

Mansourian-Christakos said she hopes healthcare providers let all men know about the vaccine, since someone's sexual identity isn't always obvious, and some will not be comfortable disclosing it.

Recently the province announced this fall teen boys will receive the free vaccine, too.

"This is a step forward in that gap with STI prevention and looking at the program through a health equity lens," she said.

The HPV vaccine is currently available to those aged 26 or younger.

Edited/packaged by Casey Stranges