As government continues to popularize the HPV shot for girls aged 9-11 years, medics say 96 percent of the population is not aware that males too need to get the Human Papilloma Vaccine (HPV) which protects them from acquiring the virus and passing it on females they are sexually involved with.
Millions of Ugandan boys and adult men have been left behind in the fight against the Human Papilloma Virus(HPV) which is responsible for a number of cancers and other sexually transmitted diseases that are ravaging the population.
According to medics, 96 percent of the population is not aware that males too need to get the Human Papilloma Vaccine (HPV) which protects them from acquiring the virus and passing it on females they are sexually involved with. Majority however know that the vaccine should be given to girls aged, 9 to 11 who are not sexually active to protect them against cervical cancer.
The World Health Organization recommends that both males and females should get immunized against the disease. Doctors attribute the ignorance concerning HPV vaccination among males to poor sensitization carried out by government.
“They made a mistake," a vaccinologist said. "They targeted virgin girls leaving the boys behind who actually pass on the virus to the females. Today people think that HPV vaccine is only for women and as such boys have been left out.”
According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics populations projections for January 2021, there are 20,835,900 males in the country while females are 21,544,900. Medics says they believe that less than 10 percent of these have received an HPV shot.
“Mainly it is male students in international schools or those who parents are travelling to work abroad and are relocating the family that come to get shots, but this number is very limited," said the vaccinologist.
According to a 2010 systematic review of HPV genotypes in Uganda, the prevalence of HPV in Ugandan males was estimated to range between 55.3 percent to 76.6 percent for adult HIV positives while that of those who are negative stood at 38.6% -47.6%.
Sharon Otoori, a nurse and vaccinologist of Jabez Vacciantion also observes that many boys and men are being left out when it comes to HPV vaccinations, and complains that they are ignored yet they are the people who spread the vaccine.
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Otoori says that now, only boys who study in International schools are the ones who are vaccinated against HPV. Most Ugandan boys are thus left to fend for themselves.
Dr Immaculate Ampaire, the deputy director of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization (UNEPI) says that government was forced to concentrate on girls rather than boys due to the high cost of the vaccine.
“We did not have resources to also immunize boys," she said. "It took us a lot of lobbying to get the vaccines for girl and we decide to first concentrate on them because research shows that the vaccine is more effective in girls who have not yet begun having any sexual intercourse. Otherwise, if we had all the money that we needed, we would also immunize boys.”
On the open market, one shot of the vaccine costs between 75,000 and150,000 shillings. Since a boy aged 9-11 needs two shots while those aged 15 and above might require three shots especially if they are sexually active, Dr Ampaire says they do not have the financial means to cater for males to. Currently, government only provides the vaccine to girls aged 9-11 free of charge as part of the routine immunization programme.
Margaret Ndiwulira,a mother of four boys says she is not aware that boys are also supposed to get the shot. Ndiwulira says she thought the shot was for girls.
“ This is news to me,”she said.
Fredrick Muhame, a 31 year old bank teller when asked whether he has ever gotten the shot or even heard that males can get it, he asked URN what it is.“I have never heard about that vaccine, I think it is something new.” Muhame said.
Jackson Opio, a driver who operates within Kampala and has worked in the United Kingdom says that even though he has ever heard about the vaccine being given to males, he has never gotten it because he does not trust it.
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Dr Ombeva Malande MD, a vaccinologist and a Senior Consultant on Paediatric Infectious Diseases says that government needs to cater for males when it comes to HPV vaccinations so as to reduce the number of cervical cancer cases in the country.
“One of the issues leading to cervical cancer and other disease such as stomach cancer or even warts is the presence of this virus in males who later pass it on to unsuspecting females," Malande said. "If there’s one thing that government can do to combat cervical cancer, it is giving the vaccine to boys.”
According to Dr Malande, HPV accounts for 70 percent of all Cervical Cancer cases reported. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer reported among women in the country. According to the Kampala and Kyadondo cancer registry, 400 new cases were reported last year.