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HPV Knowledge Lacking in Puerto Rican Community

Update Date: Dec 05, 2014 05:42 PM EST

Puerto Rican women know little about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health found that HPV vaccination rates are significantly low among Puerto Rican women. Furthermore, while 51 percent started with the vaccination series, only 21 percent of Puerto Rican girls between the ages of 11 and 18 completed the 3-step vaccination process.

"Our study is the first to provide insight into common psychosocial barriers affecting HPV vaccination in Puerto Rico," principal investigator María E. Fernández, Ph.D., and associate professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at the UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a news release.

The study, which involved women aged 16 to 24 and their mothers, revealed that few female participants said that having HPV, multiple sexual partners or lack of routine screening can lead to cervical cancer.

In fact, unvaccinated women believed that cervical cancer is caused by genetic predisposition, use of birth control pills, lack of hygiene, poor diet and lack of physical activity. Researchers noted that these women also possessed little knowledge about HPV or the vaccine.

"This research suggests that Puerto Rican-specific intervention messages need to include more information about vaccine efficacy, more recommendations from providers and increased promotion of the vaccine," Fernandez concluded.

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