Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is a sexually transmitted virus.
What is HPV?
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to oral, anal, and penile warts or cancers in men. Trans men may also be at risk of cervical* cancer. There are over one hundred different strains of HPV. Most strains can be cleared up by your body, but some are high-risk (causing cancers) or low risk (causing genital warts). HPV is the most common STI in North America among all genders.
*Individuals use many terms to describe their bodies. For consistency and to facilitate dialogue with your healthcare practitioner, we will use the medical term cervix.
What are the signs of HPV?
HPV can lead to oral, anal and/or genital warts which are easy to pass on. Warts can be clustered or appear as single bumps on the skin. They are usually itchy. Sometimes warts can be hidden inside the ass or the throat and do not itch – you don’t know they are there! High risk HPV infections may have no symptoms but can cause oral, anal or penile cancer. Despite these signs, there are no tests for men to determine if you have HPV.
However, if you have HPV or other risks for anal cancer (i.e. HIV+, guy who has sex with guys, have had anal warts, or have anal sex), you can get a test called an anal pap. The test can tell you if you have abnormal cells in your anus. Ask a health care provider that you trust for an anal pap.
How is HPV transmitted?
Anyone who has sex can get HPV. Types of HPV that cause warts are spread by skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, front hole, anal, and oral sex with someone who has the virus. Kissing or touching a partner’s genitals with your mouth can also spread the infection. Remember that even if no warts are visible, HPV can still be transmitted.
Am I at risk for HPV?
Higher risk people include those who:
- have sex without a condom
- are not vaccinated
- have sex with an unvaccinated partner
Because of the way the vaccine was distributed in the past (mostly to young women), Gay/Bi/Queer guys (GBQ) are more at risk for HPV. People with other infections such as HIV are more at risk as their immune system is weaker, meaning they cannot fight the infection very strongly.
Why HIV-Positive Cis, Trans and GBQ Guys?
Some research suggests over half of HIV-positive GBQ men have had an infection with an HPV type that causes cancer.
Can I get screened?
There is currently no routine screening for HPV in cisgender GBQ guys. Trans men are encouraged to get pap smears.
How is HPV treated?
There is no cure for HPV. For most cases, HPV will be cleared by the body’s immune system. Genital warts can be treated but not cured. Treatments for genital warts include medicine, freezing, laser or surgery. A health care provider can help you decide which treatment is right for you. After warts are treated, they might come back.
What is the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is called Gardasil 9®. It helps prevent HPV in cis and trans Gay, Bi, Queer (GBQ) guys. Cancers of the throat, penis, cervix, and anus are a growing health concern for GBQ men, and the vaccine protects against these cancers. It helps your body build defenses before you get the infection. Even if you already have the infection, the vaccine can help you protect against other strains.
What kind of vaccine is it?
Gardasil 9® is a non-live vaccine, meaning it can’t give you HPV.
How is the vaccine given?
The vaccine is given in the muscle in your upper arm. It is typically given in 3 doses over a 6-month period for those over 15-years-old. The second dose should be given 1 to 2 months after the first dose and the third dose 6 months after the first dose.
Who should get the vaccine?
Cancers of the throat, penis, cervix and anus affect cis and trans GBQ guys more than others. Getting the vaccine would go a long way in minimizing your risk for these types of cancers. We recognize that the cost of the vaccine for those over 26 may be a barrier to access, and we are hopeful that the guidelines around this are changed in the future.
Who should not get the vaccine?
If you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, it may not be right for you. If you are pregnant, you should wait until after your pregnancy to get the vaccine. If you have any illness more serious than a cold, you may need to wait until you are healthy. Not sure? Your health care provider can answer your questions.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
YES! The vaccine has gone through years of research and safety procedures. Vaccines are also closely monitored on a regular basis. The vaccine has been approved by Health Canada.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
The side effects are general for all vaccines, you may experience pain, redness or swelling on the arm that you got the injection, fever, headache, feeling tired, nausea, and muscle and joint pain shortly after the injection.
How effective is the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is very effective at preventing HPV infections. The vaccine protects against the riskiest strains, which cause cancers of the throat, penis, cervix, and anus. The vaccine protects against 78% of cases of anal cancers caused by the two main strains of HPV and protects against 90-100% of cases of genital warts from two other HPV strains.
I already have HPV, should I still get the vaccine?
If you have previously had Gardasil® 4 (an earlier version of the vaccine), Gardasil® 9, which protects against 5 additional strains may still be worthwhile.
Is there an age limit to get the vaccine?
No, there is no maximum age to receive the HPV vaccine. A minimum age of 9 years old is recommended. You are never too old to benefit from protecting yourself from HPV, including the HPV vaccine!
How can I protect myself?
The best way to protect yourself is through vaccination. It provides protection against many HPV types. Condoms are shielding as well, but they do not provide the same protection as the vaccine.
Does the vaccine cost money?
The vaccine is free for those who are 26 years old or younger and identify as gay, bisexual or guys who have sex with guys, including trans people. Costs vary but on average you can expect out-of-pocket costs to be around $200 per shot ($600 total).
Where Can I Get The Vaccine?
This is a list of a few of the places that have the vaccine on-site. Don’t see any near you? Check your local pharmacy, community health centre, or anywhere you seek care. You can also visit www.gardasil9.ca for a list of clinics that offer the vaccine.
Medisys Travel Health and Vaccination Clinic
123 Edward Street, Suite 505
Toronto, ON M5G 1E2
Passport Health Yorkville
77 Bloor Street West, Suite 1411
Toronto, ON M5S 1M2
Summit Travel Health – Midtown Toronto
1560 Yonge St, Suite 252
Toronto, ON M4T 2S9
Warden Family Practice and Walk-In
3502 Danforth Avenue
Scarborough, ON M1L 1E1
Victoria Family Practice and Walk-In
1184 Victoria Park Avenue
Scarborough, ON M4B 2K6
HealthSmart Medical Clinic
2425 Eglinton Avenue East, Unit 10
Scarborough, ON M1K 5G8
Appletree Medical Centre
2555 Eglinton Avenue East
Scarborough, ON M1K 5J1
Crossways Sexual Health Clinic
2340 Dundas St W
Toronto, ON M6P 4A9
Appletree Medical Centre
1175 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1J4
College Medical Pharmacy
474 College St
Toronto, ON M6G 1A4
Travel Medicine on Bloor
708-1243 Islington Avenue
Toronto, ON M8X 1Y9
Get Well Clinic
649 Sheppard Ave. W
North York, ON M3H 2S4
Travel Vaccine Clinic
701 Sheppard Avenue West
North York, ON M3H 2S7
Finch Medical Pharmacy
78 Finch Avenue East
North York, ON M2N 4R3
International Medical Services
4000 Leslie St
North York, ON M2K 2R9
Rexdale CHC (John Garland Site) Sexual Health Clinic
1701 Martin Grove Rd
Toronto, ON M9V 4N4
Rexdale CHC – Sexual Health Clinic
8 Taber Rd
Toronto, ON M9W 3A4
Rexdale Community Hub
21 Panorama Court
Etobicoke, ON M9V 1B4
416-744-0066 (press 1, then 3, and ask for the Hub location)
Stonegate Community Health Centre
10 Neighbourhood Lane
Etobicoke, ON M8Y 0C5
416-231-7070 (press 1)
Summit Travel Health Etobicoke
1243 Islington Ave suite 700
Etobicoke, ON M8X 1Y9
University of Toronto – Scarborough Campus
1265 Military Trail
Scarborough ON, M1C 1A4
University of Toronto – Mississauga Campus
3359 Mississauga Road North
Mississauga ON, L5L 1C6
Sheridan College – Brampton (Davis) Campus
230 Richmond St. W., Level 6
Brampton ON, L6Y 5H9
905-459-7533 Ext 5153
Sheridan College – Oakville (Trafalgar) Campus
1430 Trafalgar Road
Oakville ON, L6H 2L1
905-845-9430 Ext 2550
350 Victoria Street
Toronto ON, M5B 2K3
University of Toronto – Main Campus
214 College Street
Toronto ON, M5T 2Z9
Ontario College of Art and Design – Main Campus
230 Richmond St. W., Level 6
Toronto ON, M5V 3E5
416-977-6000 Ext 260
Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning – Lakeshore Campus
23 Col. Samuel Smith Park Drive
Toronto ON, M8V 1K8
416-675-6622 Ext 3234
York University – Keele Campus
4700 Keele Street
Toronto ON, M3J 1P3
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