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Arch Hellen Med, 35(2), March-April 2018, 241-251


Human papillomavirus related knowledge
and beliefs among high school pupils in an island region in Greece

A. Efkarpidis,1 G. Koulierakis,2 P. Efkarpidis,3 M. Sakellariou,4 A. Taxidis1
1"Vardakeio and Proio" General Hospital of Syros, Syros,
2Department of Sociology, National School of Public Health, Athens,
3First Special Primary School of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki,
4Youth Consulting Station, District of the Cyclades, Syros, Greece

OBJECTIVE To investigate the level of knowledge of senior high school pupils in an island region in Greece about the human papillomavirus (HPV), the Pap smear and the vaccine against HPV, and their related health beliefs, using the Health Belief Model (HBM).

METHOD A cross-sectional study was conducted with 525 of 566 senior high school pupils in the region (response rate 92.7%), using the self-completed HBM questionnaire.

RESULTS The pupils were in general not very aware of the various aspects of HPV and important knowledge gaps were identified. Significantly more females than males had heard of HPV (65.5% versus 37.6%) and the vaccine against HPV (54.8% versus 20.9%). Overall, the females (F) scored significantly higher than the males (M) on the "correct knowledge" index for HPV (Fmean=0.37±0.22, Mmean=0.23±0.22, p<0.001), Pap smear (Fmean=0.39±0.21, Mmean= 0.21±0.23, p<0.001), and vaccine (Fmean=0.31±0.25, Mmean=0.11±0.16, p<0.001). The correlation coefficients for the three sectors of "correct knowledge" (HPV, Pap smear, vaccine) were high (r=0.55, r=0.66, p<0.01), indicating interconnection of the sectors. The subjective sense of illness severity was positively related with "correct knowledge" in all the three sectors (HPV: r=0.39, Pap smear: r=0.26, vaccine: r=0.26, p<0.01), as was the subjective sense of benefits from adopting primary and secondary preventive actions (HPV: r=0.35, Pap smear: r=0.33, vaccine: r=0.31, p<0.01). Negative correlation was demonstrated between beliefs regarding obstacles for preventive actions and the "correct knowledge" (HPV: r=-0.17, vaccine: r=-0.16, p<0.01, Pap smear: r=-0.10, p<0.05).

CONCLUSIONS Significant gaps in knowledge about HPV, modes of transmission, diagnosis and prevention were identified among the high school pupils in the island region studied. The HBM appeared to be a reliable model for the investigation of beliefs about HPV and relevant precautions. The implementation of a systematic theory-based national education and health promotion program for HPV and its potential harmful consequences is proposed, tailored to the needs of school pupils, along with a National Screening Program for cervical cancer.

Key words: Beliefs, Health belief model, High school pupils, Human papillomavirus (HPV), Knowledge.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine