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Awareness of oral and genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in young adolescents prior to gender-neutral vaccination

Abstract

Introduction Oral human papillomavirus (HPV) and oropharyngeal cancer prevalence are increasing, particularly in men. Raising greater awareness of male HPV disease is perceived as an important intervention strategy. This study investigated the effectiveness of HPV education on adolescents’ perception of HPV disease and the impact of HPV vaccination on their sexual health.

Methods An HPV questionnaire was completed by 357 UK-based adolescents, aged 12–13 years.

Results Most adolescents knew HPV causes cervical cancer and HPV vaccination prevents this. A minority acknowledged HPV causes other genital cancers, with under one-fifth knowing HPV causes genital warts. Adolescents’ awareness of HPV transmission activities were limited. There was very poor awareness of oral HPV infection or HPV-induced oropharyngeal cancer. Half of the participants stated HPV vaccination reduced their concerns about sexually transmitted infection contraction. Over half the males said they may take more sexual risks following vaccination, while a similar proportion of females did not expect their partner to take more risks.

Conclusions Adolescents had little awareness of male HPV infection and the role HPV vaccination can play in preventing these diseases. With variable rates of HPV vaccination uptake in males reported worldwide, this study indicates that in the UK greater emphasis on male HPV disease within educational information is required, to raise better awareness of how HPV affects both genders. As both genders preferred to receive education via healthcare professionals, educating a wider range of healthcare professionals on oral HPV could help facilitate awareness of HPV’s role in head and neck cancer.

  • education and training
  • health education
  • human papillomavirus
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • teenagers

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All results data relevant to the study are included in the article.A copy of the questionnaire can be obtained up to 1 year after publication upon request to the lead author (ORCID 0000-0001-5334-2491).

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