Testing positive for HPV 'will cause feelings of stigma in some'
THE introduction of HPV testing to the cervical screening service will have to be accompanied by information to reduce the chances of some groups of women who test positive feeling stigmatised, new research warns.
CervicalCheck is to bring in HPV testing in labs next year to reduce the chances of tests being misread.
However, an investigation by the Cervical Screening Research Consortium (CERVIVA) found that some groups of women are likely to feel "shame, anxiety and stigma" if they get a positive result.
Researchers for the consortium sent a questionnaire to a random sample of 5,553 women aged 20-64.
This included questions on socio-economics, HPV knowledge and women's anticipated adverse psychosocial responses to finding out they have tested HPV positive.
"We observed socio-economic variations in adverse reactions to testing HPV positive," said the research.
Less educated women had higher shame, anxiety, stigma and worry scores.
Age was associated with anxiety and worry - this was highest in younger women, under 30 years old.
Women who were married or cohabiting were least likely to feel shame and worry. The researchers warned that to "minimise possible negative impacts on screening uptake and alleviate potential adverse psychological effects of HPV-based screening on women, screening programmes may need to develop specific messages around HPV infection and HPV screening that target certain subgroups of women".
There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Most cervical cancers are caused by high-risk types HPV-16 and HPV-18. If a sample taken during the cervical screening test shows low-grade or borderline cell abnormalities, the sample should automatically be tested for HPV.
If HPV is found in the sample, a woman should be referred for a colposcopy for further investigation and, if necessary, treatment.
If no HPV is found she will be asked to carry on with a normal test routine.