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Knowledge, attitudes and awareness of the human papillomavirus among health professionals in New Zealand

By Susan Mary Sherman, Karen Bartholomew, Hayley J. Denison, Hersha Patel, Esther Moss, Jeroen Douwes, Collette Bromhead

Posted 08 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/317248 (published DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197648)

Abstract Background Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that is implicated in 99.7% of cervical cancers and several other cancers that affect both men and women. Despite the role that HPV plays in an estimated 5% of all cancers and the evolving role of HPV vaccination and testing in protecting the public against these cancers, preliminary research in New Zealand health care professionals suggest knowledge about HPV may not be sufficient. Methods A total of 230 practice nurses, smear takers and other clinical and laboratory staff who attended a range of training events completed a cross-sectional survey between April 2016 and July 2017. The survey explored four broad areas: demographics and level of experience, HPV knowledge (general HPV knowledge, HPV triage and test of cure (TOC) knowledge and HPV vaccine knowledge), attitudes towards the HPV vaccine and self-perceived adequacy of HPV knowledge. Results The mean score on the general HPV knowledge questions was 13.2 out of 15, with only 25.2% of respondents scoring 100%. In response to an additional question, 14.0% thought (or were unsure) that HPV causes HIV/AIDS. The mean score on the HPV Triage and TOC knowledge questions was 7.4 out of 10, with only 9.1% scoring 100%. The mean score on the HPV vaccine knowledge questions was 6.0 out of 7 and 44.3% scored 100%. Only 62.6% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were adequately informed about HPV, although 71.8% agreed or strongly agreed that they could confidently answer HPV-related questions asked by patients. Multivariate analyses revealed that knowledge in each domain predicted confidence in responding to patient questions. Furthermore, the number of years since training predicted both HPV knowledge and Triage and TOC knowledge. Discussion Although overall level of knowledge was adequate, there were significant gaps in knowledge, particularly about the role of HPV testing in the New Zealand National Cervical Screening Programme. More education is required to ensure that misinformation and stigma do not inadvertently result from interactions between health practitioners and the public.

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