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HPV stigma must end, says leading nurse

HPV stigma must end, says leading nurse
14 January 2020

The organisations that plan and buy Cheshire’s healthcare are supporting Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to tackle the myths and stigma around the common virus, HPV, and to get the facts out.

Across the UK, cervical screening is moving to testing for HPV[1] first. It is a far more sensitive test but also means many more women will be told they have HPV. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is running its #SmearForSmear campaign during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week (20-26 January) to tackle the misconceptions about the virus.

In the majority of cases, HPV infection goes away without doing the body any harm. Sometimes it causes cells to change which, if not treated, could develop into cervical cancer. Testing for HPV is a far more accurate test, estimated to prevent almost 500 diagnoses of cervical cancer every year[2].

Now, Cheshire’s four NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the UK’s cervical cancer charity want as many people as possible to understand the importance of cervical screening and to feel informed and comfortable when they get their results.

New research[3] conducted by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has found a third of women consider HPV a taboo topic and would not want anyone to know if they had it. A quarter of the women who took part in the survey hadn’t heard of HPV while one in five would feel embarrassed if they were told they had the virus.

Calls to the charity’s helpline about HPV have already risen 50 per cent over the past year. It is expecting this to rise significantly as more women are tested for HPV and is calling on health professionals to be prepared for increases in questions from patients and to encourage open conversation.

Katie Mills, general practice nurse lead with the Cheshire CCGs, said:

“HPV can be confusing but it is nothing to be ashamed of. Eighty per cent of us will get at least one type of HPV in our lives and, in most cases, the immune system will get rid of the infection without it causing any harm. We need to get the facts out about HPV and get rid of harmful myths and stigma around this really common virus.”

 

[1] https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/cervical-screening/primary-hpv-testing

 

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5490776/

[3] Survey of 2,034 Women aged 18 and over. Collected between 9.12.19-12.12.19 by Censuswide on behalf of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust