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There are two vaccines for cervical cancer and both are available in South Africa. Both these vaccines are currently being considered for a national vaccination programme. The successful implementation of a vaccination programme will largely depend on how future clinicians are oriented regarding these vaccines. The purpose of this study was to investigate the knowledge, attitude and beliefs of medical students in South Africa concerning vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV). This was a cross-sectional study conducted among 100 medical students using a self-administered questionnaire. More than two-thirds (71%) of the respondents were aware of HPV and among them 81.2% mentioned vaccination against HPV. The majority (81.7%) were aware that persistent HPV infection is a cause of cervical cancer. Only 14.5% of the medical students knew that between 60 – 80% of cervical cancers is caused by HPV types 16 and 18. Overall, knowledge regarding HPV infection was low among the medical students as the average score was 3.23 (possible range was 0 to 9). The majority of the students (72.9%) indicated that the vaccine should be given to girls before the onset of sexual activity. Overall, 86.7% of respondents intend to prescribe HPV vaccines. In conclusion, overall, knowledge regarding HPV vaccination among the medical students in South Africa was low. But they had a positive attitude towards it. There is a strong need to provide more education to medical students about the relationship of HPV infection and cervical cancer and the benefits of vaccinating adolescent girls to prevent cervical cancer in the future.
Vaccine, cervical cancer, HPV, cross sectional study