Objective: To investigate specific information needs of people who search for information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) on the Internet.
Methods: We performed a qualitative analysis of the e-mail questions asked by the visitors of a website with evidence-based information about HPV. The website, hosted by Antwerp University, provided basic information on epidemiology and natural history of HPV in women and men, diagnostic and treatment options, screening, and vaccination. If visitors did not find an answer to their questions, they could mail their question to an e-mail address associated with the website.
Results: We received 713 questions posed by 527 e-mail correspondents. The following themes emerged as most important: transmission of HPV, the HPV vaccine, the natural history of the virus, the vicious circle (re-infection between partners), HPV detection in men and women, treatment of men and women, incubation time, pregnancy/fertility, genital warts (in)fidelity, and symptoms of HPV infection.
Conclusion: Both men and women are seeking health information on HPV on the Internet, often after being counseled by a health care provider.
Practice implications: Practitioners should be prepared for questions on the themes that concern people most. Practitioners may play a role in guidance towards reliable sources of information.
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