Gay men under-45 to be offered cancer vaccine on the NHS
Gay men under the age of 45 are to be offered a cancer vaccine on the NHS, the health minister has announced.
The jab protects against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which has been linked to a range of cancers most commonly found in men who have sex with men.
Michelle O'Neill said her department was investing £100,000 in the new vaccination programme after seeking advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
She said ahead of a visit to the Belfast Pride festival: "This will be a targeted vaccination programme for men who have sex with men aged up to 45 who attend genito-urinary medicine (GUM) and HIV clinics."
A similar decision was taken by the Welsh health minister last December.
There are more than 100 types of HPV, and about 40 of these infect the genital tract.
The vaccine has long been offered to adolescent girls as part of the fight against cervical cancer.
Ms O'Neill said: "Investment in this programme will help to provide protection against HPV, which can cause a range of cancers. My department is now working closely with the Public Health Agency to ensure the HPV vaccine can be offered to eligible men attending GUM clinics in the near future."
Most people would need three doses of the HPV vaccine, ideally over a 12-month period.
In June, just days after Sinn Fein assumed the health ministry following the Assembly election, Ms O'Neill lifted the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood.
The bar had been retained by successive DUP ministers, who cited blood safety concerns, despite a campaign by gay rights activists to have it overturned.
Ms O'Neill said she had taken the decision, which brought Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, based on medical guidance.