Photo: Getty Images
There has long been a frustration, upset and for some, a feeling of discrimination because there is currently no available HPV test for boys and men.
We are the ones burdened with the diagnoses, having to inform partners, shouldering feelings of shame and guilt and ultimately if persistent and progressive having to deal with all the physical and emotional ramifications of treatment.
The medical community has not been falling over itself in a race to make available a test for men and so the predominant question becomes -- why not?
To begin with, the current HC2 technology used in testing for HPV does not discriminate. It knows not whether the specimen is from a male or a female. PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, is a test which has been used long before the digene HPV test -- most currently used -- was approved by the FDA. This is also true of the tests available through Hologic and Roche's new cobas test.
It is often heard that there is no consistently reliable test for men, yet PCR is typically used in the majority of research studies, including those on men. If it were so unreliable, then the research study results should also be in question but they're not. These same results are used to develop policies and guidelines relative to things like screening, so obviously it isn't because the test is unreliable.
According to Joel Palefsky, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, who deals with infectious disease and HPV related anal cancers, the unfortunate fact is, that it doesn't serve a purpose. Unless a man has some type of lesions which can be further tested simply knowing that he has HPV is not going to change anything.
He states that most individuals are not tested in advance of sexual involvement with a partner but typically are dragged in by a partner who has been diagnosed with HPV. By that time, it is too late to undo transmission for any strain of virus which may have been acquired.
I know many are now adamantly disagreeing with this.