Influence of Gender and Undergraduate Course on the Knowledge about HPV and HPV Vaccine, and Vaccination Rate among Students of a Public University

Abstract Objective To evaluate the knowledge related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and the rate of HPV vaccination among undergraduate freshmen and senior students of medicine, pharmacy, speech therapy, nursing and physical education in a Brazilian university. Methods A questionnaire concerning sociodemographic aspects, sexual background, and knowledge about HPV and its vaccine was filled out by 492 students. Three months later, a second questionnaire, concerning the new rate of vaccination, was applied to 233 students. Results Among the 290 women who answered the first questionnaire, 47% of the freshmen and 13% of the seniors stated they were not sexually active, as well as 11% of the 202 freshman and senior male students. Although the knowledge about HPV was higher among women, they reported a lower use of condoms. More than 83% of the women and 66% of the men knew that HPV can cause cervical cancer, but less than 30% of the students knew that HPV can cause vulvar, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancer. Less than half of the students knew that HPV causes genital, anal and oropharyngeal warts. Comparing the students, the seniors had more knowledge of the fact that HPV is sexually transmitted, and that HPV infection can be asymptomatic. The rate of vaccination was of 26% for women, and of 8% for men, and it increased to 52% and 27% respectively among the 233 students evaluated in the second questionnaire. Conclusion As almost half of freshman women declared being sexually inactive, the investment in public health information programs and easier access to the HPV vaccine seem to be a useful strategy for undergraduate students.