Give boys same jab as girls to stop sex infections, teachers say

Teenage boys should be encouraged to get the HPV jab to help protect them against cancers and sexually transmitted infections, teachers have said.

The HPV jab helps to prevent against cancer and STIs. Picture: Jon Savage / TS License.

Hundreds of thousands of young men were being left at risk from the human papilloma virus (HPV) each year, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) annual conference heard.

And educators have a “duty of care” to ensure they get the information they need to choose to get vaccinated against it, delegates were told.

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The conference has also heard calls for young people to be educated about the importance of using protection during sexual activities such as oral sex.

HPV is a group of viruses that cause a number of conditions, such as warts, and some types are linked to cancers, particularly cervical cancer.

Under the current system, 12- and 13-year-old UK girls are vaccinated, usually during their second year of secondary school, giving them protection against two types of HPV, which together are responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers.

Delegates at the conference in Liverpool argued that there was a case for young men to get themselves protected as well.

Proposing a motion on the issue, Sree Varshini Rajkumar from Berkshire said: “In British men HPV causes 1,412 cases of head and neck cancer alone each year.

“This is not to mention the 600 cases of HPV-related anal and penile cancers that are diagnosed every year as well.”

It has been predicted that HPV-associated throat cancers in men will overtake HPV-related cervical cancers in women in five years, she said.

“Over 50,000 men are diagnosed with HPV every year. Over 360,000 boys are left unprotected each year,” she added.

“As educators we have a duty of care to the young men in our schools to provide them with the information that they need to choose to get vaccinated.

“Men who have sex with men are also particularly vulnerable to high-risk HPV-related diseases and they receive no protection from the vaccination of our girls.

“As educators it’s vital that we provide accurate information on safe sex practices for all the young people under our care, including the LGBT+ community.

“It’s important that we spread the message that sexual health and wellbeing is the responsibility of both sexes.”

Helen Porter, an ATL member from Berkshire, said a recent survey by the union had found that the vast majority believed that 11- to 14-year-olds should be educated about STIs.

“Safe oral sex is not widely discussed in education settings but many STI’s, including chlamydia, syphillis, HIV and HPV can be transmitted this way,” she said.

“We need to educate young people about the need to use condoms and dental dams during oral sex. A dental dam is a thin latex sheet that acts as a prophylactic barrier during oral sex.

“We owe the young people we educate a first-rate relationship and sex education, that will prepare them for their adult lives and make them aware of the risks so that they can make informed decisions and protect themselves from disease.”

ATL passed a resolution calling for the union to raise awareness that HPV can cause a range of illnesses besides cervical cancer.

Last month, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that sex and relationships education will become compulsory in all of England’s secondary schools.