Public health practices and policies in Mauritius are much heteronormative having for effect excluding Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) people in various health programming. One of these policies concerns the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination; which is administered by the Ministry of Health and Wellness as a vaccine programme for young girls aged between nine to thirteen years old.
HPV vaccination reduces the risk of girls contracting the virus by as high as 70%. In Mauritius, it is reported that 150 new cases are detected every year and 50 death cases are registered annually.
What is HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually harmless and goes away by itself, but some types can lead to cancer or genital warts. HPV infection is now a well-established cause of cervical cancer and there is growing evidence of HPV being a relevant factor in other anogenital cancers (anus, vulva, vagina and penis) as well as head and neck cancers. HPV vaccines that prevent HPV 16 and 18 infections are now available and have the potential to reduce the incidence of cervical and other anogenital cancers.
Concerns for Gay and Bisexual men and boys
HPV is usually associated with cisgender women since it can be the cause of cervical cancer; and traditionally, when the HPV vaccine first came out, it was directed towards girls. However, a new study in the United States published in 2019 suggests that cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM) have similar rates of four high-risk types of HPV as cisgender women. Overall, the analysis found that HPV seroprevalence was similar in MSM (42.6%) and women (37.1%).
Biological and behavioural surveillance surveys carried out by the Ministry of Health and Wellness in 2010, 2012 and 2015 for Gay and Bisexual men and boys did not have HPV as one of the health determinants. In the United States for example, only around 18% of Gay and Bisexual men and boys have had an HPV vaccination.
Advice for Gay and Bisexual men and boys
While public policies and health programming would undoubtedly remain unchanging for years to come, speaking to your physicist/doctor/medical practitioner and getting regular screening is a simple and effective way of preventing HPV infection. Sex should be safe and pleasurable!
- Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases Report: https://hpvcentre.net/statistics/reports/MUS.pdf
- Seroprevalence of Human Papillomavirus 6/11/16/18 Among Self-identified Gay/Bisexual Men Who Have Sex With Men, Men Who Have Sex With Women, and Females, United States, 2003-2010: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30475987