Purpose: To assess current levels and correlates of awareness, knowledge, and beliefs about human papillomavirus (HPV) in a racially diverse sample of young adults. Correlates of interest in HPV education and the HPV vaccine were also examined.
Methods: A total of 124 students 18-26 years of age from two southeastern universities (including a historically black university) completed a survey assessing demographic characteristics, sexual history, awareness and knowledge of HPV, HPV-related beliefs (perceived risk of HPV infection, perceived shame associated with HPV infection), interest in learning more about HPV, and interest in the HPV vaccine (women only).
Results: More than 75% of the sample had heard of HPV. Although some misunderstandings were observed, HPV knowledge was relatively high. Women reported greater awareness and knowledge of HPV than did men. Higher perceptions of risk were observed among sexually active participants and those with multiple sexual partners. Younger participants, men, and those with less HPV knowledge indicated they would feel more ashamed if diagnosed with HPV. Black/African-American and sexually active participants reported greater interest in HPV education. Greater interest in the HPV vaccine was observed among women who were sexually active, had multiple sexual partners, and felt vulnerable to HPV infection.
Conclusions: This study is one of the first to assess awareness, knowledge, and beliefs about HPV since the HPV vaccine was approved. Findings suggest that awareness of HPV may be increasing, yet many misconceptions remain. Continued efforts are needed to promote further understanding of HPV infection, the HPV vaccine, and the importance of routine cervical screening.