Men who have sex with men (MSM) will finally be offered vaccinations against the human papilloma virus (HPV) in England.
A programme to vaccinate men under the age of 45 will be rolled out from April 2018 to protect against forms of cancer caused by HPV as well as genital warts, finally ending one of the most visible forms of healthcare discrimination against gay and bisexual men in the UK.
HPV is a sexually trasmitted virus which can lie dormant and symptomless for years before leading to aggressive forms of cancer. It has been linked to highers rates of anal, penile, head an neck cancers among men who have sex with men.
Adolescent girls have been offered a vaccination against HPV on the NHS since 2008, protecting both themselves and, indirectly, any straight man they subsequently have sex with.
However, gay and bisexual men do not benefit from this so-called 'herd immunity', and there have been frequent calls over the last few years to extend the vaccination programme to offer them an equal degree of protection.
The HPV vaccine, which is already available to gay and bisexual men in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, will now be rolled out to men attending sexual health (GUM) clinics and HIV clinics in England.
Dr Michael Edelstein, consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England, said: "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.
"They 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."