oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Knowledge and awareness of human papillomavirus and intention with regard to human papillomavirus vaccine uptake by female tertiary students in the Eastern Cape province : original research



In 2008, two human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, Cervarix® and Gardasil®, were licensed for use in South Africa. Initial models showed that vaccination could lead to an approximate 70% decline in cervical cancer cases. This paper describes the knowledge, awareness and health beliefs about HPV and the HPV vaccine, and the intentions of female tertiary students with respect of being vaccinated with the latter. An observational, descriptive and analytical cross-sectional survey was conducted among 150 female tertiary students at a university in the Eastern Cape province in this regard. Knowledge and awareness of HPV and the HPV vaccine were poor. Only 22.7% of the students were aware of HPV and that an HPV vaccine was available in South Africa. However, most respondents (80%) reported a willingness to be vaccinated. Being aware of the existence of a Papanicolaou smear, higher knowledge of HPV, higher perceived vaccine effectiveness and higher perceived severity of HPV infection were significantly associated with increased willingness to be vaccinated. There is a need for education on HPV and its vaccination in South Africa. An effective vaccine marketing strategy should emphasise the effectiveness of the vaccine, the susceptibility of women to contracting HPV and the severity of being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.


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