A new initiative aiming to boost awareness of diseases in men caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) has been launched in the UK.

HPV is a well-known cause of cervical cancer and genital warts in women but the public is much less aware of its potential impact on men.

According to the Royal Society for Public Health, just one in eight adults associates HPV with diseases that affect men, and yet the virus causes around 2,000 cancer cases and 48,000 genital warts cases in males in the UK every year.

The Society says it “warmly welcomes” the launch of HPV Action’s online site Jabs for the Boys, which, it is hoped, will raise awareness of both the virus and the HPV vaccine.

Raising awareness “is more crucial than ever as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continues to reconsider its original decision not to extend the national HPV vaccination programme to adolescent boys, against the advice of RSPH and the HPV Action coalition,” it stressed.

Girls have been vaccinated against HPV for free as part of a national programme since 2008, but RSPH and HPV Action “strongly believe that universal vaccination for boys and girls is the only way to achieve complete and equitable protection.”

“We were exceptionally disappointed by the initial decision of the JCVI in July not to recommend the extension of HPV vaccination to all adolescent boys,” said RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer.

“While we wait indefinitely for the final decision, the Jabs for the Boys initiative represents a welcome step towards increasing public awareness of HPV.”

She also noted that HPV-related cancers are increasing and that boys and men remain at risk. “Jabs for the Boys serves as a vital resource providing expert advice and accurate information.”