Men who have sex with men (MSM) will be offered protection against the human papillomavirus (HPV) via a national vaccination programme in England due to be rolled out latest this year, the government has confirmed.

NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) are planning a phased start to the programme from April 2018, for men aged 45 of younger attending sexual health (GUM) clinics and HIV clinics in England.

HPV is a virus transmitted through sexual contact and most commonly associated with causing cervical cancer in women, but it can also cause genital warts and other cancers including oral, anal and penile forms.

Girls aged 11 to 13 have been vaccinated against the HPV virus in the UK since 2008, which the government says also offers protection to teenage boys, while Scotland and Wales already have up and running their own vaccination programmes for MSM.

The green light for vaccinating MSM in England follows a successful pilot scheme starting in 42 specialist sexual health services clinics back in June 2016, which assessed the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of a national programme.

“Our evidence shows that men who have sex with men are welcoming an HPV vaccination programme, and it can be delivered successfully through sexual health services,” Dr Michael Edelstein, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE.

“MSM are a group who receive little indirect protection from the adolescent girls’ vaccination programme. We expect the new programme to reduce the number of cancers that are directly caused by HPV.”