Objectives: There is a well-established causal link between the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and diseases such as genital warts, and cancers of the cervix, throat, mouth, penis and anus. Worldwide, HPV vaccination programs have allowed for the primary prevention of HPV and HPV-related diseases. However, to ensure continuing reductions in the prevalence of these diseases, barriers and enablers to both vaccination and screening need to be understood.
Methods: Two separate Australian studies of young women (n = 274; mean age = 21.8 years) and men (n = 102; mean age = 22.3 years) were undertaken to examine this issue further. Data were collected via online questionnaires.
Results: More men than women understood that cervical cancer is preventable (85% versus 54%) and is caused by HPV (85% versus 25%). Almost participants held the incorrect perception that the incidence of cervical cancer had increased over the past 10 years. Few participants (5% of women; 1.7% of men) understood that there is no relationship between HPV and fertility. Most understood that HPV was sexually transmitted (73% of women; 50.4% of men) but 40% of women stated that it did not matter when vaccination should occur. Uptake and intention to vaccinate was high among. Barriers to vaccination related to discomfort and potential side-effects. In relation to screening, 37% of the women surveyed had never had a Pap test and only half were aware that Pap tests did not screen for other cancers. Eighty-five per cent of participants understood that Pap tests are still required following HPV vaccination.
Conclusions: Overall, young Australian men and women appear to have a high level of awareness about HPV and related diseases. To further reduce the prevalence of HPV-related cancers additional education of young people is needed so that they understand the value of participating in vaccination and screening programs.