Cervical cancer screening and Human Papillomavirus vaccine acceptability in South-Africa

Date: 8 April 2015

Venue: University of Antwerp - Campus Drie Eiken - Building Q - Promotiezaal - Universiteitsplein 1 - 2610 Wilrijk

Time: 4:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

PhD candidate: Muhammad Hoque

Principal investigator: Prof G. Van Hal

Short description: PhD defence Muhammad Hoque - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences

In South Africa (SA), cervical cancer is the second most common cancer leading to a significant cervical cancer burden with an age standardized incidence rate of approximately 27 per 100 000. The South African Department of Health developed National Guidelines for a Cervical Cancer Screening Program which states that every woman should have a Pap smear which is free and available at every health facility from age 30 at 10 year intervals. This will reduce 64% in cumulative incidence provided widespread coverage is achieved. But the screening rate is very low (<20%) which indicates that the cervical cancer program did not achieve its goal.

Thanks to the new advent of HPV vaccines (CervarixTM: bivalent vaccine, and Gardasil®: quadrivalent vaccine), with high efficacy (>90%), cervical cancer incidence can be reduced significantly (with 70%) if a comprehensive vaccination program could be implemented. The National Department of Health of SA has already implemented the HPV vaccination countrywide through a school health program. Successful vaccine implementation will largely depend on how different population groups are aware of these vaccines.

The level of awareness regarding cervical cancer and its detection method was low among female university students. The general knowledge regarding cervical cancer among female university students in SA was inadequate but they had positive attitudes toward getting vaccinated against HPV. Medical students and nurses working in a tertiary hospital had a low level of knowledge regarding the HPV vaccine. But they had a positive attitude towards it and many of them were willing to prescribe/recommend the vaccine to their adolescent patients. There was a high acceptability rate of HPV vaccination for their daughters in an educated group of MBA students. Educational information even increased the vaccine acceptability rate.

Overall knowledge regarding cervical cancer and HPV vaccine was low among these groups of educated people. But the acceptability and recommendation of vaccines were high. Therefore, strategies need to be in place to reach out to the widest possible range of young people and passing on to them relevant cervical cancer, HPV infection, and HPV vaccination knowledge in a practical and understandable way.