San Marcos Mercury (Texas) (06.14.2013)
In 2008, Texas Gov. Rick Perry generated much publicity when he mandated that all girls entering sixth grade should be vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV). A public outcry ensued, leading to the mandate’s withdrawal. Texas State University researchers recently conducted a survey to gauge students’ knowledge of HPV’s prevalence, presentation, and complications. The researchers learned that, despite all the HPV vaccination publicity, the students lacked HPV knowledge.
Just 38.8 percent of students surveyed knew that HPV was the most common STD, and only 13.7 percent understood that it commonly recedes without presenting any health problems. Only 15.5 percent knew that condoms did not fully protect a person from contracting HPV. Even though the study revealed that most students knew HPV was associated with cervical cancer, it also showed that fewer than 50 percent of them understood that the virus also was associated with penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers.
Texas State University’s Megan Trad, of the radiation therapy program, and Robert Reardon of the university’s Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, and School Psychology, carried out the study. Trad declared, “The results didn’t surprise us, as research shows a lack of knowledge about HPV among the general public.” Trad went on to say that the researchers had thought that with all the previous HPV publicity, Texas students might have had a “unique perspective” and would get the free vaccinations provided by the university.
The majority of the 411 survey respondents were 18–20-year-old white women. There were 107 men who responded to the survey, and approximately 25 percent of all respondents indicated they were Hispanic or Latino. The authors stated in the study that “The lack of knowledge about other cancers associated with HPV is important, because those cancers are preventable with education, the use of vaccines, and safer sexual practices.” They emphasized that students may be aware only of the most commonly known link - HPV’s association with cervical cancer - but not aware of HPV’s other dangers. The study also indicated that the students’ knowledge level about transmission, risk factors, and prevention varied.
The full report, “Understanding HPV and the Future Implications of Contracting the Virus,” was published in the journal Radiologic Technology (2013 May-June; 84 (5): 457–466).