GetGarded.ca Is a Province-Wide Resource Created to Help GBT2Q Folks Find the Best Pathway for Them to Access the Vaccine.
VANCOUVER, BC – MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2021 – Health Initiative for Men (HIM) announced today the launch of GetGarded.ca, a province-wide resource that aims to help GBQ men and Gender Diverse people navigate new recommendations which make it possible for people aged 27 – 45 to access the HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9).
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is the cause of most genital warts and several cancers. Like with many other STIs, the communities of GBQ men and gender diverse people carry a disproportionate burden of HPV infection. The communities of GBQ men and gender diverse people are susceptible to several serious conditions caused by some types of HPV infections, including oropharyngeal, cervical, and anal cancers.
The Gardasil 9 vaccine which is a series of three shots given over around six months to prevent nine types of HPV that cause the most harmful and visible HPV infections has been available to GBQ men and gender diverse people under 27 through a provincial program. However, Gardasil 9 is now recommended for men up to the age of 45 who are gay, bi, queer or have sex with other men, meaning that some private insurers will now provide coverage, although it can also be bought with a prescription from a pharmacy.
The new recommendations unfortunately do not account for gender diverse people and only give clear guidance to cis men and cis women. However, individual health care providers can prescribe Gardasil to people who they think qualify.
The GetGarded.ca resource lays out the concrete ways a community member can access the Gardasil vaccine through whatever pathway makes most sense for them: through the free provincial program, through their private insurer, or by other means.
Commenting on the launch of GetGarded.ca, Program Manager of Health Promotion, Simon Rayek said: “While there are numerous pathways for our communities to access the Gardasil 9 vaccine, these pathways are not always known to people who need it. We surveyed more than 160 community members, and only about 40% reported knowing that GBQ men and gender diverse people under 27 qualify to get the HVP vaccine for free. Even worse, less than 30% know that the vaccine is available at all for GBQ men and gender diverse people between the age of 27 and 45.”
To help bridge the awareness gap, HIM will carry out and awareness campaign which aims to reach eligible GBQ men and gender diverse people across the province and connect them with the information and tools they need to GetGarded against HPV.
Speaking about the launch, Aaron Purdie, Executive Director at HIM said: “In 2013, HIM took the official position that HPV creates significant health and psychosocial burden for gay, bi, queer men, and gender diverse people. At that time, we were in support of a provincial program that would align HPV vaccinations with the same or similar protocols as those that were being considered for young cis women. We were also vocal about the importance of our communities getting this vaccine at any age. Our community members often have a different timeline of sexual experiences and for this reason we believe that the age restriction was not meaningfully based on the lives of gay, bi, and queer men, and so we continued to advocate and promote wherever possible. And now, times have changed and it’s easier to get the vaccine than ever before. We were approached by Merck (the pharmaceutical company that produces the vaccine) to lead this promotion in BC. They let us make all the decisions about how we did that work. Our success in the original release of GetGarded (2016) manifested amazing results because our community responded to our resource and trusted our promotion of the vaccine. We ask for that support again and encourage as many people as possible to consider vaccination against HPV.”
Health Initiative for Men (HIM) is a peer-based organization that serves the unique sexual, mental, social, and physical health needs of GBT2Q in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and across British Columbia. HIM operates five health centres offering sexual health testing (including vaccination, treatment and prevention options), as well as professional counselling, sexual health education, and support groups. HIM is dedicated to strengthening the health and wellness of GBT2Q through trusted, tailored, targeted health promotion.