Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at risk of genital warts and anal cancer due to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This study explores MSMs’ perceptions of HPV and HPV vaccination prior to the introduction of this programme.
Focus groups and one‐to‐one interviews with self‐identified MSM were conducted between November 2014 and March 2015 in Brighton, UK.
Participants were recruited from community‐based lesbian–gay–bisexual–transgender (LGBT) venues and organizations. Discussions were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed using framework analysis.
Thirty‐three men took part (median age 25 years, IQR: 21–27), most of whom (n = 25) did not know about HPV, anal cancer (31), or HPV vaccination (26). While genital warts and anal cancer were perceived as severe, men did not perceive themselves at risk of HPV. All MSM would accept the HPV vaccine if offered by a health care professional. The challenges of accessing sexual health services or openly discussing same‐sex experiences with health care professionals were perceived as barriers to accessing HPV vaccination. Two participants were concerned that selective HPV vaccination could increase stigma and prejudice against MSM, comparable to the AIDS epidemic. Ten MSM were unsure about the effectiveness of HPV vaccination for sexually active men and were in favour of vaccinating all adolescent boys at school.
Most MSM have poor knowledge about HPV and associated anal cancer. Despite the lack of concern about HPV, most MSM expressed willingness to receive HPV vaccination. There is a need for health education about the risks of HPV and HPV‐related diseases so that MSM can appraise the benefits of being vaccinated. Concerns about HPV vaccine effectiveness in sexually active men and possible stigmatization need to be addressed to optimize HPV vaccine acceptability.