A study by the University of Seville reflects the opinions of professionals of Primary Care of Andalucia on human papilloma virus (HPV) and its vaccine. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, but its vaccination rate is among the lowest in the Spanish province.
The objective of this study is to know the opinions of experts on prevention of HPV infection in adolescents and the administration of their vaccine.
To this end, the researchers conducted interviews to 26 focus groups formed by students of 3rd and 4th years of Compulsory Secondary Education (ESO), parents with children of this age and 45 professionals from Primary Care centers in Seville, Granada and Jaén.
Doctors recognize the difficulties of reaching the adolescent population in matters of prevention of risky sexual behavior, due to lack of time and little concern of adolescents for preventive measures.
Although the young people know the symptoms of the infection, not all of them know whether males suffer from the disease, as well as the association of the infection with cancers other than the cervical cancer. Likewise, the results suggest that doctors hesitate when recommending the vaccine, leaving the decision to the parents.
Experts point out that the main problem when vaccinating is the lack of information about HPV, based on their results.
Additionally to the lack of information, there is an important gender bias. When analyzing the social discourse on HPV from a gender perspective, it is observed that it is not exempt from intention to control the sexuality of bisexual women and ignores other non-heteronormative groups (sexual behaviors carried out by people of different sex who they follow the canons established by the patriarchal society).
There is a discourse that says sexually active women can get cancer from HPV infection, while men are only transmitters of the disease and are not at risk of getting sick. “This patriarchal and unscientific discourse punishes women who are sexually active, especially with men,” emphasizes María González, researcher at the University of Seville.
Professionals have mainly showed an inactive attitude in the promotion of HPV vaccination, especially due to the lack of training and information received from the health system.
“When the administration does not offer clear information about the HPV vaccine to professionals, it raises doubts about it, so they do not transmit frank information to the public,” says González.
“Health experts have a very important role to inform the population in this regard, must internalize their responsibility when updating knowledge and when they have contradictory information on their actions, go to scientific sources to incorporate these evidences into practice,” María González said.
“It would be advisable to establish strategies that improve the information professionals have about HPV, as well as the benefits of the vaccine, so that they transmit them clearly and with assertiveness to the parents. This would avoid uncertainty in the parents, improve the vaccination rates and reduce the complications of the infection (cancer),” she adds.