Genital warts reduced, but stable in older Australians

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The last 10 years have seen diagnoses of genital warts drop by 90% in Australian men and women aged 15 to 20

New surveillance data presented today at the 32nd International Papillomavirus Conference in Sydney highlights the continuing downward trend in diagnosis of the disease since the Australian National HPV Vaccination Program was introduced in 20017.

The data, drawn from 224,329 patients – 112,018 males and 112,311 females – shows a 92% reduction in genital warts in females (from 9.0% to 0.7%) and 90% in males (from 6.3% to 0.6%).

There was an overall 74% reduction in genital wart diagnoses in females (7.6% to 2.0%; ptrend<0.001) and 65% in males (13.5% to 4.7%; ptrend<0.001).

The analysis was presented by Dr Eric Chow from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Monash University.

“These 10 year surveillance results, as with our 2015 study, clearly demonstrate the impact the National HPV Vaccination Program continues to have, significantly reducing the prevalence of HPV related conditions among young Australians,” Dr Chow said.

The Kirby Institute has been collecting data from 36 sexual health clinics across Australia since 2004 – three years before the National HPV Vaccination Program commenced.

The study examines data from Australian born men and women who have been eligible for the HPV vaccine.

In 2007, HPV vaccination was first offered to Australian girls aged 12-13 through state-run School Based Vaccination Programs, along with a two year catch-up program for women aged up to 26 years. In 2013, boys aged 12-13 were also added to the program, with a two year catch up program for boys aged up to 15.

From 2016, all Australian-born females aged under 36 years, and males aged under 19, have been offered Gardasil, the Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Recombinant vaccine.

In 2018 the National HPV Vaccination Program replaced the quadrivalent HPV vaccine GARDASIL with GARDASIL9 (Human Papillomavirus 9-valent vaccine, Recombinant).

Professor Basil Donovan, Sexual Health Program Head at the Kirby Institute, said that the Australian genital warts surveillance study, running alongside the universal HPV vaccination program, is the largest and longest of its kind worldwide.

“With genital warts having a relatively short incubation period we have been able to observe this dramatic reduction over the last 10 years,” he said.

“The results also complement similar Australian studies which have demonstrated reductions in other HPV related conditions, including HPV infections and cervical pre-cancers.

“Together these studies provide a promising signal for what we expect to observe with cervical cancer over the coming decades.”

The analysis also found the proportions of genital wart diagnoses has remained stable among both males and females aged 36 years or older.

This a cohort has not been eligible for school based or catch up HPV vaccination programs.

The stakeholders say this finding demonstrates the need for healthcare professionals to offer HPV vaccination to all those indicated, including those not eligible for the funded vaccine under the NIP, particularly older women (aged up to 45 years) and individuals born overseas.

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