Human Papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted disease that infects over twenty million Americans each year (Vanslyke, Baum, Plaza, Otero, Wheeler, Helizter, 2008, P. 584). Many of these people do not realize that they are infected because they do not show any symptoms. Even though HPV has been talked about for decades, it is only until recent years that the topic has become part of mainstream women’s health issues. Not only that, many of these people are women who do not understand the importance of testing for HPV. HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer among women.
This is especially true for women in the Hispanic community. Hispanics have higher instances of cervical cancer and mortality rates (Luque, Castaneda, Tyson, Vargas, Proctor, and Meade, 2010, P. 84). By studying data about these women, we can better understand how to communicate and educate communities about HPV and the importance of knowing about HPV, being regularly tested, and using vaccines when possible. This paper is an analysis of the lack of knowledge about HPV, the importance of HPV testing, and the necessity for vaccinations and availability among Latina women. I personally have a lot of knowledge when it comes to HPV because I work for a laboratory company that runs HPV testing. I work with several physicians within the state of Texas who struggle with patient compliance and patient education when it comes to HPV. It’s important to me because there are many patients that do not adhere to the Center for Disease Control guidelines for HPV testing.
One of the major issues with the Hispanic community is lack of knowledge and attitude about HPV. Many Hispanics in the United States live below the poverty line which prohibits them from adequate health care (Vanslyke et al., 2008, P. 586). Hispanics have poorer access to health care because many are without health insurance. This in turn forces many Hispanic women to go without any knowledge from their doctors. The patients that do see a physician regularly do not obtain enough information about HPV. In addition, doctors aren’t providing enough patient literature about HPV that is in Spanish. There seems to be a language barrier between the physician and the patient in communication when it comes to explaining HPV. These
barriers make it hard on both parties to be able to communicate with each other effectively.
Many Hispanic women don’t understand how one can get HPV. According to Luque et al. (2010), Mexican women ranked HPV as the fifth highest cause when it came to cervical cancer. Many believed that diet was one of the root causes for HPV. Others were under the impression that they couldn’t get HPV if they only had one sex partner. Some only had the knowledge that HPV was a form of an STD and that it could cause them to be sterile. Other women stated that HPV would be something that could go away on its own. Some were under the impression that warts were the only way to tell if they had HPV and if they didn’t have warts, they weren’t affected. These women also ranked any abnormal vaginal bleeding as the most serious and prominent sign of cervical cancer. In addition, many of these women did not have a high school education, where they might have been exposed to HPV awareness (P. 95).
Another major issue with the Hispanic community is being tested regularly for HPV. Many Hispanic countries are unable to afford HPV testing from an economic standpoint. According to Courtney Humphries (2012), cervical cancer is still a leading cause of cancer in women because many governments cannot afford the HPV screening programs. My company has come up with several uninsured programs that would make HPV testing affordable for many of these patients.
When it comes to testing, many Hispanic women are afraid of what the HPV testing entails. Research that was done by Vanslyke et al. (2008) pointed out that several Hispanic women would much rather not know if they have HPV (P. 589). They did not want to be treated if they were positive with HPV or if they did have cervical cancer, they would much rather not know. Others were concerned with the physical discomfort of a pap smear and possible embarrassment from a pelvic exam. Many expressed that they do not want HPV testing without their knowledge. They would feel as if they were being taking advantage of. By these women not wanting to be tested, it makes it hard for physicians to be able to care for them. Physicians would not be
able to have a patient-centered communication which would allow the doctor to treat their patients.
Lastly, vaccines are another issue for the Hispanic community. Since many of the Hispanic cultures can’t afford healthcare, many of them are worried about the costs associated with getting the vaccine. Some, who have insurance, were worried if the insurance companies would even cover the costs of the vaccination because it’s a new vaccine. Not only that, they were worried that the vaccine would present access barrier for many in the Hispanic community (Luque et al. 2010, P.96). Many of these individuals do not have transportation or the time to make frequent trips to the doctor’s office for multiple rounds for the vaccine shots. The vaccine doesn’t have easy access like the flu shot where patients can get a shot at the local drug store and not have to pay an office visit. Many are bothered that it would encourage young girls to want to have sex at an earlier age (Luque et al. 2010, P. 95). The fear is that once young girls are educated about the vaccine, this would promote them to start having sex.
Possible side effects of the vaccine are also huge concern within the Hispanic community. Many of them feel that the vaccine is too new in the market to really know if the vaccine is safe or not for them and their children to have (Vanslyke el al. 2008, P. 590). Others felt that there wasn’t enough information about the vaccine that would put them at ease. Many of them that did support getting the vaccine felt that it would be more cost effective than getting testing for HPV (Humphries 2010, P. S8). Although this is a positive start, vaccines are only to be administrated for individuals who haven’t had oral sex or sexual intercourse. This would cause an issue because many children are starting to have sex at an early age and many of these parents are unaware of this. Providers would have a hard time trying to convince parents to move forward with vaccines. Patient trust is a must when it comes to treating your patients.
There are many concerns when it comes to women’s health in the Hispanic community regarding HPV. When the Hispanic community doesn’t have enough information, aren’t being tested regularly, and are concerned about vaccines
for HPV, this puts a strain on provider care for these demographics. It’s important to these women to have knowledge about HPV and their options when it comes to testing and vaccines. The growing mortality rate within the Hispanic community is major concern for everyone. It’s something that providers continue to work on with their patients in order to move forward with these concerns.
Humphries, C. (2012, August 30). Testing Times. Nature, 488, S8-S9. Lugue, J. S., Castaneda, H., Tyson, D. M., Vargas, N., Proctor, S., & Meade, C. D. (2010). HPV Awareness Among Latina Immigrants and Anglo-American Women in the Southern United States: Cultural Models of Cervical Cancer Risk Factors and Beliefs. NAPA Bulletin, 34(1), 84-104. Vanslyke, J. G., Baum, J., Plaza, V., Otero, M., Wheeler, C., & Helitzer, D. (2008). HPV and Cervical Cancer Testing and Prevention: Knowledge, Beliefs, and Attitudes Among Hispanic Women. Qualitative Health Research, 18(5), 584-596.