London financiers will swap suits for Lycra today as two teams race rowing boats from Barcelona to Ibiza in a campaign to include boys in vaccinations for a cancer-causing virus.
Bankers, commodities traders and one Olympic rower will brave searing heat and shipping lanes for three days in an effort to raise money and change public health policy on human papillomavirus. One aim of the 10-strong group is to lobby to change the U.K. vaccination program, which only treats girls.
“Men in 10 years’ time are more likely to have HPV-related cancer than women,” said Tristan Almada, a hedge fund executive who founded the campaign and is president of the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. “This is a gender-neutral virus that requires a gender-neutral vaccine.”
For two of the men, HPV is personal. Almada’s mother died of the virus-related anal cancer in 2010, and fellow rower Pierre Andurand’s mother is undergoing treatment. Their mothers’ names, Isabel and Danielle, have been given to the boats. HPV also causes cervical and penile cancer and may trigger 5 percent of all cancers, according to the NoMan is an Island campaign.
The cause is attracting senior figures from the finance world. Andurand founded hedge fund Andurand Capital Management LLP. Other rowers include Pierre Lacaze, chief executive officer of LCM Commodities, and executives from Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
HPV-related cancer can be prevented through vaccination. Yet stigma surrounding sexually-transmitted disease and HPV’s characterization as a woman’s issue, because of its links to cervical cancer, have prevented universal inoculation, Almada said. He has petitioned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. since 2010 and has reported to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, a body of the U.K. department of health, though policy remains unchanged.
The 200-mile Row to End HPV is designed to get people engaged with the issue, and “convey the urgency that got the world behind polio and smallpox,” said Almada, whose day job is at derivatives hedge fund Taurosso Capital, which he co-founded. The event will also raise money for grants and to collaborate with the medical profession in research.
The rowers range in age from 28 to 41, and while they include veterans of Ironman competitions and mountain climbing, all but two are novices on water. Even Mark Hunter, who won a gold medal for the U.K. in Beijing, confesses to having little experience of rowing at sea. Teams of two will row in two-hour shifts and navigate themselves. A support boat will be on standby.
The teams had raised about $700,000 toward their $1 million target on Friday. The race will be an annual event, Almada said.
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