Sexual Orientation Influences HPV Vaccination Uptake

Summary and Comment |
May 11, 2015

Sexual Orientation Influences HPV Vaccination Uptake

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Compared with heterosexual and bisexual women, lesbians were as likely to know about the HPV vaccine but less likely to initiate vaccination.

  1. Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP

Human papillomavirus (HPV), responsible for most cervical cancers, is transmitted through skin-to-skin or genital contact with a partner of any sex; thus, all sexually active women — regardless of sexual orientation — are at risk for acquiring the infection. In an analysis of data from the 2006–2010 U.S. National Survey of Family Growth, researchers examined whether sexual orientation affects knowledge about and likelihood of HPV vaccination in girls and women.

Among 3253 girls and women (age range, 15–25), 2914 identified as heterosexual, 235 as bisexual, and 62 as lesbian (42 did not report orientation). Compared with heterosexual or bisexual women, lesbians were older and more likely to be employed and to have higher income but were less likely to be insured or to have received services for contraception and sexually transmitted infection in the last year. Adjusted for demographics, socioeconomics, insurance, and receipt of services, similar percentages of heterosexual (84%), bisexual (86%), and lesbian (92%) participants reported ever hearing about HPV vaccination. Among participants aware of the vaccine, 790 (28%) had received at least one dose; rates were similar for heterosexual (28%) and bisexual (33%) women and girls, but lower for lesbians (8%).


Lesbian women (and perhaps some clinicians) may be unaware that HPV transmission is not limited to heterosexual contact. Lesbians are less likely to obtain Pap smears and more likely to smoke than their heterosexual counterparts and thus are at higher risk for cervical cancer. Clinicians, government, and professional societies need to reach out to the lesbian community about HPV vaccination; in addition, wouldn't it be nice if the vaccine manufacturers directed some advertising there?

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Diane E. Judge, APN/CNP at time of publication Equity Stryker Corporation


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