A community perspective: On Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancer among women and, trans and gender diverse people

Positive Life NSW & Femfatales, April 2019

Authors: Liz Sutherland, Lance Feeney, Katya Samodurov

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus which can be passed through skin to skin contact during sexual activity. Evidence to date shows that women living with HIV are 3 to 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than the general female population. They are also at greater risk of developing anal, vaginal, oropharyngeal and vulvar cancers.

There are other groups who may have a higher but preventable risk because they are often left out of the conversation about HPV and related cancers. Trans men are less likely to be up-todate with Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. Furthermore, several studies have highlighted that trans and gender diverse people, and lesbian and bisexual cis-gendered women are often disregarded as not being at risk.

Positive Life and Femfatales developed a cross-sectional study to:

• Assess awareness and knowledge of HPV infection and risk for 4 HPV-related cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal) among women and, trans and gender diverse people in Australia;

• Assess the knowledge gaps to inform the development and implementation of population-specific educational resources to increase community and healthcare professional awareness of HPV and related cancers;

• Assist with the prevention of morbidity and mortality by increasing screening, early detection and treatment of HPV-related cancers, and;

• Assess rates of HPV vaccination in women and, trans and gender diverse people

KEY FINDINGS:

1. The results from this survey highlighted a lack of awareness of risk, prevention,
symptoms, and early detection of HPV-related vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers.

2. Approximately 28% of HIV-positive respondents were unaware that a vaccination
against HPV exists and 71% of HIV-positive respondents had not been vaccinated
against HPV.

3. Over half (60%) of HIV-positive respondents believe their risk of anal cancer was either‘about the same’, ‘lower’, or ‘much lower’ than the general female population’s risk.

4. While all HIV-positive respondents had screened for cervical cancer at some point in
their lives, 91.7% had never had an anal examination for anal cancer.

5. Among HIV-positive and HIV-negative but immunocompromised respondents who had undergone staging or treatment for either cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer, none had ever screened for anal cancer.

6. Of the HIV-positive respondents who do not receive screening reminder notifications, none were aware of the new 3 yearly National Cervical Screening Guidelines and changes.

7. Qualitative responses indicated that respondents generally preferred having clinician-initiated conversations with female doctors or nurses who were non-judgemental, non-dismissive, clear, and made them feel comfortable.

8. In an open-ended short-answer question, more than 25% of qualitative respondents felt that more awareness and normalising talking about HPV in the public realm would help increase their chance of detecting HPV-related cancer early.

Share Button