IN 2008 a programme was introduced to give all girls between the ages of 12 and 13 the HPV vaccination, to help protect them from getting cervical cancer.
The vaccine can protect against the two types of viruses that can cause over 70% of cases of cervical cancer.
But why in 2014 have doctors and experts suggested that the HPV vaccine should be given to boys as well?
Reporter REBECCA MCPARTLAND, investigates.
IT HAS become routine for girls to be given the HPV vaccination during their time at school to protect them from getting cervical cancer.
But now HPV Action is calling on the Government to extend its teenage girl vaccination programme to include boys as well, to help also protect them a wide range of cancers.
The group of 26 patient and professional organisations is currently working to reduce the health burden of HPV, and chose World Cancer Day, February 4, to launch its new campaign.
The HPV virus, which can be sexually transmitted, is responsible for 5% of all cancers, while it is linked to 90% of anal cancers, 60% of penile cancers and up to 75% of tonsil and base-of-tongue cancers.
Currently the UK only offers the vaccination to girls; however countries such as the USA, Australia and some areas in Canada now offer the cancer-preventing vaccine to boys.
Peter Baker, HPV Action’s Campaign Director said: “Vaccinating girls alone is not enough to tackle HPV as men can also get the virus.
“It is unfair to deny boys in the UK the same level of protection as girls here or indeed boys in Australia and other countries where both sexes are now routinely vaccinated.
“The HPV vaccination is one of the easiest ways of preventing cancer.”
HPV Action believe that it is men who have sexual intercourse with other men who are most at risk as they have no protection from the girls-only programme. But they also believe that just vaccinating men who have sex with other men will not be a good solution – which is why they want the vaccine to be offered to both young girls and boys.
The vaccination is most effective before a child has had any sexual activity, however, many believe that it would be very unethical to ask a 12-year-old boy if at some point in the future he might have sex with another man.
If young males were also to be vaccinated then not only could they be protecting themselves from cancer, but they could also be protecting women.
Currently parents who wish to have their sons vaccinated have to pay up to £150 to get it done privately.
Mr Baker said: “It is unfair on girls to expect them to take sole responsibility for tackling HPV.
“It is a gender-neutral virus that requires a gender-neutral vaccination programme.”
As well as helping to protect people from various cancers, the HPV vaccination can also help to protect people from genital warts – a sexually transmitted disease that can be difficult to treat and can also cause a lot of distress and discomfort.