Session speaker Ellen Daley, an associate professor in community and family health at the University of South Florida, said HPV, a sexually transmitted disease that can infect both sexes, has become viewed as a female-only issue. And even though an HPV vaccine for males is now available, the lag time between approval for females in 2006 and vaccine approval for males in 2009 means we are "way behind the curve" in trying to ensure immunization messaging reaches both sexes, Daley said.
"We're concerned that men don't think HPV concerns them when in fact we know it's an enormous concern," she said.
In four studies conducted by University of South Florida researchers, they found that oftentimes the HPV vaccine was "nowhere on men's radar," said session speaker Eric Buhi, director of the university's Collaborative for Research Understanding Sexual Health. In fact, among college-age males and men who have sex with men, only 5 percent and 12 percent, respectively, said they had intentions of getting immunized.
The studies found that the most common barriers to vaccination were cost and concerns about vaccine side effects, Buhi said. Among college-age males, one-fifth believed they weren't at risk for HPV; among men who have sex with men, 31 percent said they weren't willing to pay for the vaccine and 63 percent were concerned about side effects; and among minority male respondents, barriers cited were side effects, belief they weren't at risk for HPV, fear of vaccines as well as the time they'd have to take off from school or work to get immunized.
"Health messages should really target HPV infection and prevention in men," Buhi said.
Speaker Cheryl Vamos, associate director of the university's Center for Transdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, noted that the vast majority of psychosocial research related to the HPV vaccine has been conducted among females. However, the more information that men receive on the vaccine and its benefits, the more likely they are to critically assess whether it's an appropriate intervention for them.
In 2012, officials began recommending routine HPV vaccination for boys ages 11 to 12 as well as 22- to 26-year-old men who have sex with men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 20 million U.S. residents currently have genital HPV.