On January 8th the Anal Cancer Foundation provided testimony to the New York City Council’s Committees on Health and Women’s Issues regarding the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cancer.

In addition to members of the Committees, medical professionals, and health care advocates, also attending the hearing were New York State Senator Liz Krueger, and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who recently spoke out about her own HPV-positive status. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) testified about the need to bring awareness to the critical issue of HPV vaccination and improve coverage rates. In their testimony, the DOHMH spoke to the commonality of HPV, and the lasting, sometimes fatal, consequences of infection with this virus. The Health Department emphasized the importance of vaccination for boys and girls in helping to prevent HPV and associated diseases, and expressed concern about disparities in coverage and HPV-associated cancer rates amongst various age and ethnic groups.

In our own testimony, the Anal Cancer Foundation reminded the members of the Committees that nearly 79 million Americans – 1 in 4 – have HPV, a carcinogen, and that over 31,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer annually. The Anal Cancer Foundation also detailed the painful and toxic nature of treatments for these cancers and demonstrated that HPV-related cancer rates are on the rise. Only one of the six cancers caused by HPV – cervical cancer -- has an effective screening method.

Anal Cancer Foundation stated that, despite strong recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other medical organizations, the vaccine that prevents HPV has suffered from low uptake amongst females and even worse uptake amongst males. The Anal Cancer Foundation stressed to the Committees that the best route for increasing uptake is improved education among both the medical and parent communities.

Increased education and awareness will require close work with health and medical agencies and associations to improve knowledge amongst the medical community of the importance of routine vaccination for all children. Improved uptake will also entail speaking with parents, schools, and parental organizations about the necessity of the vaccine and its critical role as a cancer prevention tool. A targeted public health campaign is important to educate the general public about the importance of vaccinating against HPV, as well as educating about what HPV is and working to reduce the stigma surrounding this very common virus and its associated cancers.

Along with its fellow organizations, the Anal Cancer Foundation stressed to the Committees the phenomenal opportunity New York City has to lead the way in preventing devastating cancers in its population. The testimony encouraged the Committees to help achieve a 100% vaccination rate amongst boys and girls, paving a road to eradicating many painful and stigmatizing diseases. The Anal Cancer Foundation applauds the New York City Council for its commitment to destigmatizing HPV and associated diseases and to eradicating the virus that causes 5% of all cancer. Read the full City Council Testimony.

Anal Cancer Foundation also provided testimony on January 7th in the UK in response to the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) interim position statement and recommendation to offer the vaccine to men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 16-40 at GUM (sexual health clinics) and HIV clinics.