The HPV vaccine, which is currently offered to girls in the first year of secondary school, will be made available to men between the ages of 16 and 26 who have sex with men.
The roll out of the vaccine is due to begin next month.
Last October it was extended to both men and women under the age of 26, who are living with HIV.
“The vaccine will help to prevent HPV infection, which can cause HPV-associated cancers and genital warts,” said Dr Fiona Lyons, the HSE’s clinical lead of sexual health, yesterday.
Dr Lyons was speaking at the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme conference, which was held to mark a year since the launch of its national strategy.
News of the vaccine roll-out comes as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the increase in Ireland.
Notifications of syphilis rose by 50% between 2014 and 2015 for men who have sex with men.
Notifications of HIV increased by 30% in the same period.
More than half of all HIV diagnoses and 80% of syphilis diagnoses here occur in men who have sex with men.
In relation to 2016 data that is becoming available, notifications of gonorrhoea among men have also risen by 60%.
This increase comes in the same year health experts made stark warnings that a strain of the sexually transmitted superbug was at risk of becoming untreatable.
Minister for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said the increases in STIs and HIV, particularly among men who have sex with men, as well as other diseases, was cause for concern. Ms Corcoran Kennedy also believed the late diagnosis of HIV remained a problem.
The minister cited statistics that pointed to an “alarming” increase in people engaging in unprotected sex.
“The survey [the Healthy Ireland survey for 2016] shows an alarming rise and level of risk-taking in relation to unprotected sex, and 20% of all of those having sex with someone outside a steady relationship were not using any form of contraception,” she said.
“This provides us with clear evidence that we need to work harder to change behaviours by increasing awareness of the risks and how to protect oneself from these risks, particularly among young people.”
In general, Ms Corcoran Kennedy said that destigmatisation of sexual health and crisis pregnancies was needed.
“We know that there are still barriers in accessing services for some people, of all ages,” said the minister, who added “that there can also be a stigma associated with sexual health and wellbeing issues.
“This fear of stigma and discrimination can lead, for example, to people not wanting to disclose or to seek help for crisis pregnancies [or] for not accessing counselling support following a diagnosis for HIV.”
For further information on testing or prevention see the HSE.ie website.
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