Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an infection that afflicts 50% of sexually active individuals at some point in their lives and can lead to cervical cancer in women and cancers in other locations in both men and women. This viral infection be spread via sexual and non-sexual skin-to-skin contact and some strains are preventable by vaccines made available to both men and women.
In this study conducted by Penn State CIDD Professor Rachel Smith and Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences Roxanne Parrott, a method called semantic network analysis was used to investigate males' and females' knowledge regarding HPV. The authors found that men, vaccinated women, and unvaccinated women brought up many of the same concepts such as “cancer,” “women,” and vaccine,” which have been associated with media coverage of HPV, but differed in how they linked these concepts together and also in their knowledge regarding this disease. Furthermore, all three participant groups associated this disease primarily with women, which may explain challenges in vaccine uptake and HPV-related testing in men. Overall, this study shows that semantic network analysis generated an usable representation of HPV ideas knowledge (concepts and structures) within three different groups: men, unvaccinated women, and vaccinated women. Using these data, future studies and HPV awareness and prevention campaigns can help address knowledge deficiencies to help prevent the spread of this disease.
Synopsis written by Alexia Karanikas.
Smith RA& Parrott RL
Mental representations of HPV in Appalachia: gender, semantic network analysis, and knowledge gaps
Journal: Journal of Health Psychology