Exploring the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and communication preferences of the general public regarding HPV: findings from CDC focus group research and implications for practice

Health Educ Behav. 2007 Jun;34(3):471-85. doi: 10.1177/1090198106292022. Epub 2006 Sep 22.


Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, causing genital warts, cervical cell abnormalities, and cervical cancer in women. To inform HPV education efforts, 35 focus groups were conducted with members of the general public, stratified by gender, race/ethnicity, and urban/rural location. Focus groups explored participants' knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about HPV and a hypothetical HPV vaccine as well as their communication preferences for HPV-related educational messages. Audience awareness and knowledge of HPV were low across all groups. This, along with an apparent STD-associated stigma, served as barriers to participants' hypothetical acceptance of a future vaccine. Although information about HPV's high prevalence and link to cervical cancer motivated participants to learn more about HPV, it also produced audience fear and anxiety. This research suggests that HPV- and HPV-vaccine-related education efforts must be approached with extreme caution. Other practical implications are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alphapapillomavirus*
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S.*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion
  • United States