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HPV Awareness, Knowledge Generally Low in U.S., U.K., Australia, Study Finds

HPV Awareness, Knowledge Generally Low in U.S., U.K., Australia, Study Finds

January 28, 2014 — Awareness of the human papillomavirus test is higher in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom and Australia, although overall knowledge about the virus and test is relatively low in all three countries, according to a study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, Reuters reports.

For the study, researchers surveyed 2,409 men and women in the U.S., U.K. and Australia about HPV and HPV testing, which was introduced in the 1990s. Respondents were first asked if they had heard of HPV prior to taking the online survey. Those who answered affirmatively were then asked an additional 15 questions.

Participants also were asked if they had ever heard of HPV testing. Those who had heard of it were asked six more questions about the test.

Key Findings

Sixty-one percent of respondents had heard of HPV, half of whom also reported knowledge of the HPV test. On average, those who had heard of HPV testing before the survey correctly answered fewer than half of the questions about it. Women were more likely than men to correctly answer questions.

For example, most respondents knew that the HPV test could be conducted at the same time as the Pap test, which is used to detect abnormal cell changes in the cervix. In addition, most knew that a positive HPV test does not mean a woman will definitely develop cervical cancer.

However, most respondents did not know that a negative HPV test result suggests the woman has a low risk of developing cervical cancer and that the HPV test is not an indicator of whether an individual should receive the HPV vaccine.

Jo Waller, the study's senior author and a public health researcher at University College London, noted that HPV testing is used in various ways in different countries. However, she added, "It's also important for people to understand that although the HPV vaccine protects against HPV, it's still really important for women to have screening, to check for (virus) types not covered by the vaccine" (Jegtvig, Reuters, 1/24).