African American Attitudes Towards HPV Vaccination



African-American cervical cancer death rates for Missouri are higher than the general population, and rates in St. Louis city and St. Louis County exceed those for the state. Human papillomavirus (HPV), the main cause of cervical cancer, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections among African-American young people. However, there is an approved vaccine available for HPV. To reduce long-term cervical cancer disparities, it is important to ensure that parents and guardians in the African-American community are well-educated about HPV and HPV vaccination and that barriers to vaccination are addressed.


  1. This study surveyed 200 and interviewed 30 parents and guardians of African-American girls ages 9 to 17 to:
    Determine knowledge about HPV, HPV vaccination and its relationship to cervical cancer
  2. Determine acceptability of and intent to vaccinate
  3. Describe the individual characteristics, cultural attitudes, and social and environmental factors that impact parent and guardian intent to vaccinate girls against HPV


Among the 200 African-American parents and guardians surveyed, just over a third remained unaware of HPV and HPV vaccination. Those parents and guardians who were aware of HPV and the vaccine were more likely to be female, younger and employed and to have social resources such as a regular physician for their child. Those participants in the study who reported awareness of the virus also reported contact with family or friends who had been previously diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or cervical cancer, which may have served to heighten HPV awareness. Parents and guardians who were aware of HPV were also somewhat knowledgeable about HPV, but this awareness and knowledge did not necessarily lead to vaccination. One-fifth of aware individuals had vaccinated their daughters against HPV. The decision to vaccinate or not was significantly affected by whether a pediatrician had recommended the vaccine, and this did not differ by the education level of the parents and guardians.

Next Steps

The next phase of this project is to develop an HPV educational decision-making tool that will assist parents and young adults as they consider HPV vaccination. The tool has the potential to fill a gap in available health decision-making tools and enhance efforts to understand how young adults and parents make decisions about HPV vaccination.


PECaD: NCI—U01CA114594-04S2

Project Staff

Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD (Primary Investigator, Washington University)
Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH (Co-Investigator, Washington University)
Dione Farria, MD, MPH (Co-Investigator, Washington University)
Janet Rader, MD (Mentor/Co-Investigator, Medical College of Wisconsin, formerly with Washington University)

Contact Information

Vetta Sanders Thompson, PhD
Phone: 314-935-3702