Knowledge, attitudes and perceptions regarding human papillomavirus among university students in Hail, Saudi Arabia

PeerJ. 2022 Mar 23;10:e13140. doi: 10.7717/peerj.13140. eCollection 2022.


Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a well-known cause of cervical cancer. The prevalence of HPV, insufficient preventive services, inadequate treatment access, socioeconomic conditions, certain cultural causes and values and opinions regarding cervical cancer have been established as factors contributing to the occurrence of cervical cancer in various parts of the world.

Objective: To determine university students' knowledge, attitudes and perceptions regarding HPV and its vaccine.

Material and methods: The present cross-sectional study included students enrolled at the University of Hail, Saudi Arabia. Data were collected from January to May 2020 using a previously validated 26-item questionnaire.

Results: A total of 386 participants responded to the survey; the response rate was 80%. The majority of the respondents (63%) were male and 332 (86%) respondents were single among the overall study population. Most respondents were aged 21-25 years (75.6%), followed by 26-30 years (12.7%). In total, 130 (33.7%) respondents reported that they had heard of HPV before, while 174 (45.1%) reported that HPV infections are rare in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, 102 (26.4%) respondents thought that HPV causes genital warts, while almost 29.5% believed that HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease. Nearly 76.2% of the respondents did not believe that HPV infection can occur without symptoms. Moreover, 53.4% of the respondents stated that they did not know the health problems associated with HPV infection, while 148 (38.8%) stated that cervical cancer is a health problem associated with HPV infection. When asked about their understanding of the HPV vaccine, nearly 267 (62.2%) respondents believed that there is no vaccine for HPV, while 239 (61.9%) believed that the vaccine does not minimise the risk of cervical cancer. In addition, the respondents reported that they would be far more likely to get an HPV vaccine if recommended by their doctors [relative importance index (RII) = 0.745], followed by their friends (RII = 0.675).

Conclusion: The present findings provide a clear understanding of university students' knowledge, perceptions and attitudes regarding HPV; this information can be used to raise awareness by developing an effective educational strategy. However, further research with a larger sample size is recommended; such efforts would also aid in the development of educational services for various age ranges.

Keywords: Attitude; Genital warts; HPV vaccine; Human papillomavirus; Knowledge; Saudi Arabia; University students.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Human Papillomavirus Viruses
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Papillomavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines* / therapeutic use
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms* / epidemiology


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines

Grant support

The authors received no funding for this work.