May 27, 2015
1 min read

Young lesbian women less likely to receive HPV vaccination

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Despite being at an elevated risk for cervical cancer morbidity and mortality, young lesbians are significantly less likely to initiate HPV vaccination compared with heterosexual and bisexual women, according to recently published data in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Adolescents and young adult lesbians may be less likely to have initiated HPV vaccination than their heterosexual counterparts because of the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to sexual orientation and HPV risk among young women, health care providers and parents and caregivers,” Madina Agénor, ScD, MPH, department of social and behavioral science, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth to assess the correlation between sexual orientation and receiving an HPV vaccination. Participants included 3,253 girls and women, aged 15 to 25 years.

Among all participants, 84.4% had heard of the HPV vaccination, with 28.5% having initiated the vaccine. Results demonstrated that these results were similar among heterosexual, bisexual and lesbian participants.

After adjusting for covariates, which included socioeconomic factors and indicators of health care access and use, 28.4% of heterosexual women and 33.2% of bisexual women (P = .033) who had heard of HPV vaccine had initiated vaccination, compared with only 8.5% of lesbians (P = .007).

The researchers noted that more research is needed to determine the causes of awareness and initiation differences among various sexual orientation identities. Agénor and colleagues suggest incorporation of curriculum regarding women’s sexuality and sexuality health into both medical and nursing school programs, as well as offer opt-out programs within community health centers, hospitals and schools that tailor to the needs of young lesbians.

“Health care facilities and community based organizations can implement programs that provide young lesbians, their health care providers and their parents and caregivers with complete and accurate information about female-to-female HPV transmission, risk for HPV and cervical cancer among lesbians from female and male sexual partners throughout their life course, and the need for HPV vaccination among adolescent and young adult women of all sexual orientations,” Agénor and colleagues wrote. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.