WILTON — Free and low-cost Gardasil, the vaccine to prevent the sexually transmitted disease human papillomavirus for males is now available at Western Maine Community Action Health Services sites in Farmington, Norway, Lewiston and Rumford.

Used in recent years to prevent HPV in women and girls, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of the vaccine for males.

“The cost of this vaccine has been a huge barrier to folks who have little income and no health insurance,” said Nancy Audet, program manager for WMCA Health Services. “We have been providing this service for women and teen girls for some time. We are very excited that we can now offer the same service to men and teen boys.”

  Gardasil targets types of the virus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts cases. The vaccine is given as three injections over a period of six months and is ideally given to young people before they become sexually active. However, the vaccine is also for young adults who are already sexually active.

“There’s a common misconception that, ‘Oh, I have been sexually active, it’s too late for me,’ and that’s not the case,” said Sara Hayes, nurse practitioner and clinical director of the program. “HPV is very common; each year about six million people in the U.S. get HPV, which can cause genital warts and cancer in both men and women.” Prevention of genital warts is Gardasil’s primary target for use in males. Experts have also noted that staving off the virus in males could help protect women by preventing further spread of the virus.

“Most people with HPV show no signs or symptoms, but many people do experience genital warts from infection with HPV,” according to Kathy Coleman, a nurse practitioner with WMCA Health Services. “This vaccine is the first preventive therapy against warts in boys and men. As a result, fewer men will need to undergo treatment for genital warts.”

In addition to the HPV vaccine, WMCA Health Services provides routine physical exams; birth control counseling and supplies; pregnancy testing and options counseling; emergency contraception; and the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Fees are based on a sliding fee scale according to household income. People with MaineCare and private insurance are welcome.

For more information about Gardasil or any of the services offered by WMCA Health Services, call 1-800-587-9354 or check out the online site at www.wmca.org.

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