Background: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is the necessary precursor for various types of cancer. Though a vaccine was developed that protects against the most virulent strands of HPV infection, vaccination rates remain much lower than other pediatric vaccines (e.g., Tdap and MMR). Males in particular have lower rates of vaccination uptake and exhibit less HPV-related knowledge. This gender disparity may be attributed to differences in health beliefs and the constructs of the Health Belief Model (HBM): (1) perceived susceptibility, (2) perceived severity, (3) potential benefits, and (4) perceived barriers.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore gender differences that exist in health beliefs related to HPV and HPV vaccination, particularly among individuals who have not received the HPV vaccine.
Method: Two-hundred 18 – 26 year-olds who had not received the HPV vaccine were recruited through Amazon’s MechanicalTurk. Online surveys were given that assessed HBM constructs pertaining to HPV and current levels of HPV-related knowledge.
Results: No significant differences were found between males and females for the four HBM constructs. Males on average scored significantly lower on HPV knowledge compared to females. Males and females endorsed a similar number of barriers to the vaccine and similar types of barriers, with “money/insurance” cited as the main barrier to receiving the HPV vaccine.
Conclusions: The findings support a gap in HPV-related knowledge for males and an overall lack of awareness of the burden of HPV for both sexes. There is an urgent need to improve health promotion, education, and reduce the barriers to HPV vaccination in order to increase vaccination uptake and begin to ameliorate this public health issue.
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