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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2005 Sep;14(7):650-9.

Psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal impact of human papillomavirus and Pap test results.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.



The purpose of this study was to explore the short-term psychological, behavioral, and interpersonal impact of human papillomavirus (HPV) and Pap results in adolescent and young adult women.


Sexually active young women 14-21 years of age were recruited using a purposeful sampling strategy from a hospital-based teen health center. Participants underwent HPV DNA and Pap testing at baseline. At a follow-up visit 2 weeks later, they received test results and participated in individual interviews designed to examine the impact of test results. Interview data were analyzed using framework analysis, a qualitative analytical method.


The mean age of the 100 participants was 17.2 years, and 82% were black. Fifty-one percent were HPV positive, and 23% had abnormal Pap tests. Psychological responses consisted of affective reactions to abnormal results, empowerment through knowledge of results, and self-confidence to prevent future disease. Personal behavioral intentions encompassed safe sexual behaviors, partner monitoring, and return for screening. Anticipated interpersonal consequences focused on the impact of communication about test results on relationships. Psychosocial and behavioral responses were influenced by the personal meaning participants derived from HPV and Pap results (e.g., perceptions of personal risk and anticipated stigma), cognitive understanding of test results, and such factors as coping mechanisms, locus of control, and relationship quality.


An understanding of young women's responses to HPV and Pap test results may help guide clinical interventions designed to prevent possibly harmful psychosocial and interpersonal responses to HPV and Pap testing but promote healthy sexual behaviors and regular screening.

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