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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
New HPV vaccine good news for African American men
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New HPV vaccine good news for African American men

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A newly approved vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) may be a breakthrough for HIV-positive people, men who have sex with men, and especially African Americans, according the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC).

The new vaccine, which goes by the trade name Gardasil, was approved by the FDA for protection against anal cancer on December 22.

'The National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) applauds the FDA's decision,' the group said in a statement issued January 6, 'believing it will have a significant impact on the health of both HIV patients and HIV-negative men who have sex with men.'

Gardasil is now one of only two HPV vaccines on the market, the other one being Cervarix.

Both vaccines protect against the two HPV types (HPV-16 and HPV-18) that cause 70% of cervical cancers, and cause some other genital cancers.

Gardasil also protects against the two HPV types (HPV-6 and HPV-11) that cause 90% of genital warts, and it has also been shown to prevent potential precursors to anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers.

While anal cancer is relatively rare, it affects men who have sex with men and people living with HIV at a significantly higher rate than the general public.

According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, Gay and Bisexual men are about 20 times more likely to be diagnosed with anal cancer than the general population.

That likelihood is almost 40 times higher for men living with HIV.

Although anal cancer affects women at a higher rate than men, health outcomes are considerably poorer for men, especially African American men.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate among white women is approximately 71%, compared to only about 62% for white men.

Among African American men, the survival rate drops significantly to roughly 51%.

Despite some initial safety concerns, the FDA found Gardasil relatively safe.

Gardasil is a three-dose (injection) vaccine.

As of September 1, 2009, there have been more than 26 million doses distributed in the United States, and there have been 15,037 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports following the vaccination.

VAERS reports document what are usually called 'side effects' of medications.

Ninety-three percent were reports of 'non-serious' side effects - fainting, pain and swelling at the injection site (arm), headache, nausea, and fever.

Seven percent were considered to be serious - death, permanent disability, life-threatening illness, and hospitalization.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, there is no proven causal link between the vaccine and serious adverse effects. All reports are related by time only. In other words, they are only related because the effect happened some time after the vaccination.

'The FDA's decision to approve Gardasil for the prevention of anal cancer is a promising step for public health, particularly for the HIV community,' said Paul Kawata, executive director of NMAC. 'Anal cancer disproportionately affects men who have sex with men, and people living with HIV. The use of this vaccine could have a significant impact on both co-morbidities and potential treatment costs within these populations.'

The NMAC is a coalition of some 3,000 faith-based and community-based organizations as well as AIDS service organizations based in communities of color nationwide.

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