Australian doctors have reported a 61 percent drop in female genital warts thanks to a national program to provide a free HPV vaccine to young women.
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A new study by researchers at the University of Sydney has revealed that doctors in Australia are now treating 61 percent less cases of genital warts in young women since the launch of a national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program in 2007. Australia was one of the first countries in the world to offer this free service to women between the ages of 15 and 27 years.
HPV is a common virus that affects both males and females. Often symptoms don’t show, which means many people who have contracted the disease through sexual contact aren’t aware of it until they get tested. It’s been found that vaccination is the best form of protection against the virus, particularly if the patient has been inoculated before they become sexually active. The vaccine is being distributed at Australian schools, medical centres and GPs for free as part of the National Immunisation Program.
It’s been seven years since the vaccination program was launched, so researchers wanted to investigate how it has affected the rate of the virus among young people. They looked at more than a million patient encounters between 2000 and 2012, and found a significant reduction in genital wart cases in female patients aged 15 to 27 years, which grew stronger every year following 2007.
According to the research team, the rate of genital wart cases reported by Australian GPs fell dramatically from 4.33 per 1,000 encounters before the program started, so from 2002 to 2006, to 1.67 per 1,000 encounters after the program was well underway, between 2008 and 2012.
"This is the first study to report the impact of HPV vaccinations on genital warts management in general practice, which is where the majority of cases are treated," said lead author of the study Christopher Harrison from the Family Medicine Research Centre at the University of Sydney in a press release"The program has proved to be a great success and of huge benefit to the sexual health of Australia, and has clearly proven to be very worthwhile."
Harrison adds that for males and females in age groups outside of what was covered in the program, there was "no significant change in the management rate of genital warts between the pre-program and post-program periods". He also mentions that the study didn't find a significant decrease in any other sexually transmitted infections during this time period, which supports their conclusion that the vaccination is the cause of the decrease in genital warts in women, and not a change in the subjects' behaviour.
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.
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