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Infect Agent Cancer. 2009 Feb 10;4 Suppl 1:S10. doi: 10.1186/1750-9378-4-S1-S10.

Knowledge about human papillomavirus and the HPV vaccine--a survey of the general population.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



The United States (US) Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with the purpose of reducing the risk of cervical cancers caused by HPV 16 and HPV 18. It is important that the general population be educated about HPV and the HPV vaccine in order to make the appropriate decision whether or not to vaccinate against this virus. Participants from the adult US general population of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA and Hampton, Virginia, USA (18+ years old) were surveyed to determine their knowledge about HPV and the HPV vaccine, and to evaluate their perception of the vaccine efficacy and safety.


We report herein preliminary data for 202 participants. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the study population was White, 45% Black, and 1% was from other ethnic groups or did not disclose their ethnicity. A large proportion of participants had heard of the human papillomavirus (overall population: 93.6%; Pittsburgh: 95%; Hampton: 90%). Participants of African descent were slightly less aware of HPV than Whites (Black 89% vs. Whites 97%, p > 0.1). Although the majority of participants knew that HPV caused cervical cancer (84%), Whites were more informed than Black participants (91% vs. 73%, p = 0.044). Eighty-seven percent (87%) of participants had heard of the HPV vaccine (Pittsburgh: 92% and Hampton: 74%, p = 0.029); a higher proportion of Whites were aware of the vaccine when compared with Blacks (93% vs. 76%, p = 0.031). However, only 18% of the population knew that the current FDA-approved vaccine protected against genital warts and most cervical cancer (20% of Blacks and 16% of Whites, p > 0.1).


These data suggest that although the general population might be aware of HPV and the HPV vaccine, knowledge of the benefits of the HPV vaccination may not be apparent. Knowledge of HPV and the HPV vaccine could result in a likely choice of HPV vaccination and would subsequently reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

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