Applying the COM-B behaviour model to understand factors which impact 15–16 year old students’ ability to protect themselves against acquirement of Human Papilloma virus (HPV) in Northern Ireland, UK

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Abstract

High-risk strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to the development of a number of cancers including cervical, vulvar, penile, anal and oropharyngeal. HPV vaccination programmes offer the HPV vaccine to males and females 12–13 years old in schools throughout the UK. However, knowledge of HPV remains low in post-primary schools. The aim of this study is to capture 15–16 year old students’ perceptions regarding the current provision of HPV education, and whether providing HPV education to 15–16 year olds could influence their intention to be vaccinated and/or future sexual health decisions related to HPV. Between 5th November 2021 and 6th May 2022, seven focus groups were conducted with 34 students in post-primary schools in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. The data was analysed using the COM-B behaviour model to explore the perceived facilitators and barriers impacting students’ ability to protect themselves from acquirement of HPV. Students perceived their knowledge of HPV to be poor and supported the addition of comprehensive mandatory HPV education at 15–16 years old when many of them were becoming sexually active. They identified barriers including lack of parental education, school ethos and religion and insufficient education regarding their legal rights to self-consent to HPV vaccination. Students felt that removal of these barriers would lead to safer sexual practices, increased awareness of the importance of HPV screening and increased HPV vaccination uptake. The recommendations provided by students need to be supported by the Education Authority in conjunction with the Department of Health in order to be successfully implemented into the post-primary school curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4(4)
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalPLOS Global Public Health
Volume4
Issue number4
Early online date17 Apr 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 17 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright: © 2024 Flood et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Access Statement

Data collected from the small focus groups within this study contain vulnerable populations. The sharing of focus group excerpts would violate the agreement to which the participants consented. Data requests may be e-mailed to the NHS Research Ethics Committee quoting IRAS ID 287358 at surreyborders.rec@hra.nhs.uk.

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