Social determinants of health explain most health inequities. Intermediate determinants dictate differences in the exposure and vulnerability of people based on social stratification. Vulnerable women (lower education level, older age, uninsured, etc.) have lower adherence to recommended Pap smear screening guidelines. However, a gap remains concerning the effect of social determinants on human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
The aim of this study was to analyze the association between the level of knowledge about HPV infection and HPV vaccines with education level and residential setting among a sample of Spanish women.
A cross-sectional study at six primary care centers (Cantabria, Spain) was performed. All women >21 years consecutively attended by midwives for routine follow-up were invited to participate during the study period (2015–2016) until a convenience sample was recruited. Participants completed an anonymous questionnaire addressing sociodemographic variables (age, education level, and residential setting) and the level of knowledge regarding HPV infection, including general knowledge about infection and knowledge about the HPV vaccine. Associations between education level (primary, secondary, and university) and residential setting (urban, semiurban, and rural) with the level of knowledge of HPV infection and HPV vaccine were calculated using adjusted logistic regressions. Dose–response associations were estimated based on p-trend.
Compared to university women, a lower education level was associated with limited or no knowledge of either HPV infection or the HPV vaccine. Women living in rural areas poorly identified “promiscuity” as a risk factor of HPV infection and “the use of condoms” as a protective factor. Moreover, living in rural areas was associated with limited or no knowledge of HPV infection and HPV vaccine. There were significant dose–response trends; those who were more educated and living in more urban areas had more knowledge about either HPV infection or the vaccine.
In our sample, the level of knowledge of HPV infection and HPV vaccine was high. However, vulnerable women, defined by a lower education level and living in rural areas, presented a greater lack of knowledge regarding HPV infection and the HPV vaccine.