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Psychooncology. 2010 Dec;19(12):1329-39. doi: 10.1002/pon.1706.

De-stigmatising human papillomavirus in the context of cervical cancer: a randomised controlled trial.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.



To identify the components of a human papillomavirus (HPV) message contributing to reducing the stigma of HPV in cervical cancer.


294 ethnic Chinese women attending a community-based clinic in Hong Kong were randomly allocated to read one of three written HPV messages: Group 'lr+hrHPV': low-risk and high-risk HPVs facts, Group 'hrHPV': high-risk HPV facts only and Group 'ds+hrHPV': high-risk HPV facts and de-stigmatising components, namely being anti-stereotypical, motivational and low in complexity. Main outcome measures were high-risk HPV-related sexual stigma, knowledge, attitude towards message, and intention to be HPV-tested measured by self-administered questionnaires immediately before and after reading.


Message allocation had a significant effect on sexual stigma (F = 5.219, p = 0.006). Participants who read message ds+hrHPV showed the least stigma, and were significantly less likely to believe that high-risk HPV infection implicated promiscuity, non-monogamy or that monogamy offered complete protection against high-risk HPV. The genital HPV-focused message was more stigmatising than cervical cancer-focused messages. Of all participants, 93% (237/254) and 97% (260/269) indicated a positive intention to be HPV-tested before and after reading, respectively. There were no between-group differences noted in terms of knowledge and intention to be HPV-tested before or after reading.


Our findings show that an HPV message containing specific de-stigmatising components may reduce public stigma towards high-risk HPV. Also, focusing solely on high-risk HPV in the context of cervical cancer helps to avoid the stigmatising effect of genital warts from tainting perceptions about high-risk HPV infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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