Boost Hispanic women's HPV prevention awareness

Despite intense screening in the past decade, higher rates of cervical cancer persist in Hispanic women.1 How can you reach these women with the information they need for prevention and detection?

According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of cervical cancer for Hispanic women in the United States is almost twice as high as non-Hispanic white women. Hispanic women have the second highest mortality rate from cervical cancer (after African-American women), with mortality for Hispanic women higher in communities along the Texas-Mexico border.2

Despite the high prevalence of disease, findings from a recent survey conducted by Lake Research Partners for the American Social Health Association (ASHA) indicate that Hispanic women are less aware than other women that HPV is sexually transmitted. What are some of the steps ASHA is taking to improve awareness among Hispanic women? Two key components of reducing the cervical cancer burden among Hispanic women is promoting awareness and addressing issues of access to care, says Fred Wyand, ASHA spokesman. ASHA's publications and posters on HPV and cervical cancer are available in Spanish and are culturally sensitive, he says.

"We are also assessing our web sites, including our Spanish-language portal, in order to make the content as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible, and of course this will include HPV and cervical cancer screening/vaccines," he states.

Access to care is an important aspect when it comes to prevention. ASHA's policy office in Washington, DC, regularly works with Capitol Hill staff to promote the issue of screening for at-risk populations, including Hispanic and African-American women, says Wyand. ASHA has organized briefings on this issue for media and legislators, as well as convened meetings of stakeholders representing government, women's and minority health organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry to develop plans of action around access to HPV vaccines in at-risk women, he states.

ASHA also has developed a model curriculum for its Cervical Cancer Prevention Project that organizations and public health agencies may adapt to increase Pap testing and follow-up among low-income African American and Hispanic women in any community. (Editor's note: Visit the ASHA web site,, for a free download of the program. Click on "About ASHA," "Research and Evaluation," "To view a sample of ASHA's successful projects, click here," and "The Cervical Cancer Prevention Project.")

To help raise awareness in Hispanic women, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), an advocacy group, has developed tools for organizing house parties, community forums, and legislative advocacy days for its "Latinas for Cervical Cancer Prevention" campaign. The organization recently hosted a virtual cafecito (informal discussion over coffee) to discuss women of color, cervical cancer prevention and the HPV vaccine, says Miriam Zoila Pérez, senior advocacy associate.

"The purpose of this campaign is to foster dialogue and create spaces for people to have open and honest discussions about their uncertainties, fears, and questions about cervical cancer prevention," she says. "The goal is to educate one another, but to also educate important decision makers in our lives and communities: legislators, but also school board officials, principals, PTA members, community health center staff, parents, teachers, and local politicians."

The organization has developed a "frequently asked questions (FAQ)" sheet, as well as a postcard, to help spread the word about cervical cancer prevention awareness. It also has developed a guide to help advocates organize their own cafecitos. (Editor's note: To access these tools, visit the web site,, and click on "Take Action," and "Cervical Cancer Prevention.")

While the HPV vaccine may prove to be an important tool in the fight against cervical cancer, it may be out of reach for many women due to costs. Barriers to accessing the HPV vaccine are compounded for Hispanic and immigrant women, who may have limited English proficiency, may be without health insurance and/or may be undocumented, says NLIRH. The advocacy group is working toward a standard of care that will provide these women with all the possible options for preventing cervical cancer.

NLIRH supports full access to new reproductive technologies "when they are coupled with unbiased information and implementation that is free from coercive policies and practices," according to its fact sheet.2


  1. Saraiya M, Ahmed F, Krishnan S, et al. Cervical cancer incidence in a prevaccine era in the United States, 1998-2002. Obstet Gynecol 2007; 109(2 Pt 1):360-370.
  2. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Cervical cancer and the HPV Vaccine. Frequently Asked Questions. Fact sheet. September 2007. Accessed at:


The American Social Health Association (ASHA) offers HPV/cervical cancer prevention patient education material in Spanish. Look at two brochures, El Papanicolaou — Lo Que Toda Mujer Deberia Saber (Pap Tests: What Every Woman Should Know) and Preguntas y Respuestas Acerca del PVH (Questions and Answers about HPV). ASHA also offers a Prevent Cervical Cancer poster in Spanish. Both brochures are $17.50 per pack of 50; the poster is $2.95. Shipping and handling charges are as follows: up to $25, $5.95; $25.01-$74.99, $7.95; $75-$499.99, 10%; $500-$1,999, 8%; $ 2,000 and above; 7%. Discounts are available for large orders; contact customer service at (800) 783-9877 for more information. Questions also can be answered by e-mailing To order online, visit the ASHA web site,, and click on "Product Catalog."