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Keywords:

  • sexually transmitted diseases;
  • human papillomavirus;
  • women's health;
  • cervical cancer

ABSTRACT

Objective

To describe young women's perceptions of human papillomavirus (HPV) using the Common Sense Model and examine whether perceptions differ based on history of HPV diagnosis or sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing.

Design

Cross-sectional, survey data.

Setting

Four women's health clinics and one university classroom.

Participants

Three hundred and two women ages 18–24.

Methods

Young women's beliefs regarding HPV were measured using the HPV Representations of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (RoSTD) survey.

Results

Most survey respondents believed HPV diagnosis was likely to result in cancer and death. Negative beliefs about the psychosocial consequences of HPV diagnosis were common. Compared to those who had not been diagnosed with HPV (or had never received STD testing), young women with a history of HPV diagnosis or STD testing had less serious and more accurate beliefs about HPV.

Conclusion

Young women tend to have misconceptions about HPV in addition to noteworthy concerns about the psychosocial consequences of HPV diagnosis. Clinical attention to young women's beliefs about HPV may provide direction for improving the delivery of patient-centered education and counseling about this exceedingly common illness.