Social and Psychological Impact of HPV Testing in Cervical Screening: A Qualitative Study
June 21, 2006
Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing has been proposed for inclusion in the UK cervical screening program. Though testing may bring some benefits to the program, testing positive for the sexually transmitted virus could have adverse social and psychological consequences for women. In the current study, the authors examined the social and psychological impact of HPV testing in the context of cervical cancer screening.
From June 2001 to December 2003, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews generating qualitative data for 74 women participating in HPV testing in England. Among participants, purposive sampling was used to ensure heterogeneity in age, ethnic group, marital status, socioeconomic background, cytology, and HPV results.
A positive HPV result was associated with adverse social and psychological consequences, primarily due to the sexually transmitted nature of the virus and its link to cervical cancer, the authors said. Women reported feeling stigmatized, anxious and under stress, concerned about their sexual relationships. They also expressed worry about disclosing their result to others. There was widespread anxiety about HPV, but the impact of testing positive varied. Women's relationship status and history, their social and cultural norms and practices regarding sex and relationships, and their basic understanding of HPV related to the psychological burden of testing positive for the virus.
"HPV testing should be accompanied by extensive health education to inform women and to de-stigmatize infection with the virus to ensure that any adverse impact of the infection on women's wellbeing is minimized," the researchers concluded.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
03.06; Vol. 82: P. 169-174; K. McCaffery; J. Waller; J. Nazroo; J. Wardle
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.