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29th Aug 2022

70% of people don’t fully understand HPV, research shows

Only 6% of those surveyed knew that HPV is extremely common.

A number of groups are calling for a greater uptake in HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccines and for increased awareness, after research reveals that 70% of people don’t fully understand HPV.

HPV is the name given to a very common group of viruses that in some cases can cause genital warts or cancer. HPV usually does not cause any symptoms and it affects the mouth, throat and genital areas. It is spread by any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area, vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts and cancers. It does not protect against all types of HPV.

According to research carried out for MSD Ireland by Behaviours and Attitudes, 54% of study participants believe that HPV is rare, when in reality it most adults will get HPV at some stage in their lives.

Worryingly, 40% of those surveyed did not know that HPV can cause cancer, while 31% did not know that vaccination can help prevent some forms of cancer.

Only 6% of those surveyed knew that HPV is extremely common in Ireland. This signifies that HPV awareness only grew by 2% in the past year.

What’s more, 1 in 4 people said that they don’t know how HPV is spread.

Reacting to the findings, Dr Phil Kieran, a GP, said: “The latest research shows that a large number of people still don’t fully understand HPV, and this is something which doctors and pharmacists can easily address with parents, providing them with factual information and advice for their son or daughter.

“HPV is preventable, and people need not develop complications because of HPV infection. Awareness building is an extremely important part in helping to prevent the spread of HPV and to potentially eradicate cervical cancer, which can incredibly become a reality for us in Ireland.”

Rachel Morrogh of the Irish Cancer Society said that the research highlights that more needs to be done in raising awareness about HPV and the types of cancer it can cause.

She said: “Both women and men can be diagnosed with a cancer related to HPV and thankfully, awareness that HPV can cause cancer has been increasing steadily. However, there is a gap between the awareness of the vaccine and what it is, when you compare women and men.

“We want everyone to have the same chance of reducing their risk of cancer and to achieve this more must be done to increase awareness of the HPV vaccine and its benefits amongst people and communities where awareness or uptake is lower.”

To learn more about HPV, head to the HSE’s information page right here.