The human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S. and an absolute nightmare from a public health perspective. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and another 14 million will be infected this year. Worse yet, because the virus can sometimes stay dormant in the body for years, many individuals may not know they have it.
While the virus can cause genital warts and other unsightly symptoms in both males and females, HPV can lead to cervical cancer and other conditions that affect the female reproductive system and can lead to many problems later in life. As a result, many healthcare professionals have advocated for young men and women to receive the HPV vaccine, but getting the word out about how dangerous the virus can be has proven to be difficult for doctors all over the country.
Communicating the risks of HPV
A new study from researchers at the Ohio State University and Texas Tech University has revealed that emphasizing the HPV vaccine's ability to prevent the sexually transmitted disease instead of its ability to prevent certain types of cancers seems to resonate far more with young women than the latter. The authors carried out a study that compared the impact between these two messages on college-aged women and their mothers. According to Medical News Today, many healthcare professionals have used the cancer-scare tactic to convince young women to receive the vaccine, but researchers have found that preventing STDs is far more important to females in that age group than in older women.
"Young women don't respond strongly to the threat of cervical cancer," Janice Krieger, the study's lead author, told the news source. "They seem to be more worried about getting an STD. That's the way we should try to encourage them to get the HPV vaccine."
Improving HIV vaccine rates
Overall, it seems that the public health crisis surrounding HPV is certainly a tricky one, so health care professionals are scrambling to find new ways to communicate with young individuals to find common ground on how to make the right health choices. This recent study is one of the few that examines the greatest at-risk group for HPV, young women, and it could help doctors all over the country improve their pitches for the important vaccine and encourage young women to make the right choice for their long-term health.