Message from Dr. Charu Kaushic, Dr. Angela Kaida, Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, and Dr. Christine Chambers: International HPV Awareness Day

Dear colleagues,

International HPV Awareness Day, March 4, is a day that is deeply meaningful to researchers focused on sexual and reproductive health. CIHR's Institutes of Gender and Health (IGH), Infection and Immunity (III), Cancer Research (ICR), and Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) support research in this area and work with research communities to promote an integrated approach to addressing sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI), including HIV and HPV. With groundbreaking studies such as HPV-SAVE and HPV FOCAL, Canadian researchers are world leaders in HPV research.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infects cells on the surface of the skin and the inner lining of the body, including the genital tract, anus, mouth, and throat. It can spread from person to person through skin contact and sexual activity, and it can infect anyone regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Infection with HPV is very common and in most cases is cleared by the immune system. However, some infections can become chronic, and those caused by high-risk HPV types can eventually lead to cancers including cervical cancer, anal cancer, and other cancers of the genital tract, mouth, and throat. Other types of HPV may cause warts, which are frequently harmless but may cause pain or bleeding. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally; in Canada, an estimated 1,450 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Similarly, HPV is associated with 30% of all throat cancers diagnosed in Canada. Some groups, including people living with HIV, are less likely to clear HPV infection and a have higher risk of developing these cancers and therefore need focused attention and services.

Although infections cannot be cured, HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections and consequently preventing cancers. Giving HPV vaccines to young people under the age of 17 can reduce the risk of cervical, anal and throat cancers by 90%. Unfortunately, studies show that access to HPV vaccination and cancer treatment is not equitable in Canada (e.g., for Indigenous Peoples and underserviced rural and remote communities). Additional efforts are necessary to ensure that every person has access to health care services, information, and support. Fighting stigma against sexually transmitted infections is also critical to improving uptake of HPV vaccines across Canada and preventing cancer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted vaccination schedules, including for the HPV vaccine. As scientists who are also parents, on this HPV Awareness Day, we ask everyone with children to help protect them from the risk of developing cervical, anal, and other cancers by getting them vaccinated against HPV.

If you are seeking funding for research on HPV or other STBBI, we invite you to apply for these grants:

Please also keep an eye out for funding opportunities through the National Women's Health Research Initiative.

Best regards,

Christine Chambers, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS
Scientific Director, CIHR-Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health

Angela Kaida, PhD
Scientific Director, CIHR-Institute of Gender and Health

Charu Kaushic, MSc, PhD, FCAHS
Scientific Director, CIHR-Institute of Infection and Immunity

Scientific Director, CIHR-Institute of Cancer Research

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