The fantastic Lancet publication of the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in reducing the rate of cervical cancer and precancer by 90% marks a milestone in a 4 decade fight that many of us have been and are involved in against this disease. Unfortunately it stills kills approximately 300,000 women worldwide annually, 85% of whom live in developing or low income countries, many with very limited access to the HPV vaccine.
The relief of knowing that HPV-vaccinated women are protected from cervical disease is hugely welcome, although regrettably does not mean that they are protected from all sexually transmitted diseases; they are not all prevented by the vaccine. The alarming rise of Chlamydial infections, not to mention the other common viral disease – genital herpes –, as well as AIDS and HIV, means that protection against them must be still maintained. This advice must apply to boys and young men who have similarly been protected by the vaccine.
I hope that these exciting results will be repeated in respect of other HPV-related disease such as many cancers of the head and neck. Progress on these is critical.
Pressure to expand the HPV vaccine to lower income countries, and educate about its effectiveness, must be sustained if we are truly to dream that one day cervical cancer will be a rare disease worldwide.