On HPV Awareness Day, 4th March 2019, the Foundation was invited onto BBC News to discuss human papillomavirus and the vaccine that protects against it. A segment earlier in the programme reported that HPV vaccination rates in BAME girls in the UK were less likely to be vaccinated against HPV than other communities.
The interview served as a great opportunity to raise awareness of how we can prevent HPV-related cancers including anal, penile and head & neck cancers by vaccinating both boys and girls against HPV.
It was especially well timed in light of a recent European publication discussing HPV awareness. The survey of some 15,000 adults aged 16 to 60 years from a sample of countries from Northern and Southern Europe where HPV vaccine is recommended, presented some alarming statistics:
— OVER A THIRD OF RESPONDENTS ARE UNAWARE OF HPV
— LESS THAN HALF OF RESPONDENTS ARE AWARE OF THE LINK OF HPV TO CANCER
— A LOW LEVEL OF RESPONDENTS BELIEVE BOTH MALES AND FEMALES ARE EQUALLY AT RISK OF CONTRACTING HPV, AGAIN HIGHLIGHTING A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
— ONLY 1 IN 3 RESPONDENTS AGREE THAT HPV CAN CAUSE CANCER IN MALES
Overall Italy, Portugal and Spain had the best awareness about HPV and its link to cancer; at the other end of the scale Austria, Germany and Switzerland performed poorly despite the vaccine being available to both boys and girls in those countries.
UK participants in the survey returned the following results:
— AWARE OF HPV: 56%
— AWARE OF LINK BETWEEN HPV AND CANCER: 38%
— AWARE THAT HPV CAUSED CANCER IN MEN: 28%
The lack of awareness of HPV and the diseases it causes is a striking reminder of the work that remains to be done in educating people across Europe of the risks of HPV, and the need to vaccinate both boys and girls against the virus in order to protect them against HPV-related cancers.
You can read the full survey here.