The psychosexual impact of human papillomavirus cervical infections

Barbara D. Reed, Mack T. Ruffin IV, Daniel W. Gorenflo, Philip Zazove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Occult human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, present in approximately 20% of women in the United States, is usually sexually transmitted, associated with substantial health risks, and unpredictable in its resolution. The potential for adverse psychosexual alterations due to HPV infection in women considered at low risk for bacterial sexually transmitted diseases is substantial, but data is lacking. METHODS. This cross-sectional study was conducted with sexually active women aged 18 to 60 years who had been enrolled at community-based offices in the University of Michigan Vaginitis Study. Women found to have occult HPV infection of the cervix were notified, received physician consultation, and were encouraged to have colposcopy performed to assess lesion status. Responses to a follow-up written questionnaire for differences in psychosexual functioning and attitudes following diagnosis were compared among these women and those without HPV infection. RESULTS. The women enrolled were primarily white and had a current sexual partner at the time of enrollment. They had few sexually transmitted infections and few risk factors, yet 20% had unsuspected HPV infection. Psychosexual characteristics at baseline and at follow-up, as well as perceived changes in these characteristics by the women, did not differ between women with HPV infection and those without. Stratification by potential confounders, including the presence of a vaginal infection at the time of study enrollment, household income level, ethnic background, age, marital status, and sexual history, did not alter these results. Conclusions. Women at low risk for sexually transmitted diseases, but who had a cervical HPV infection, were similar to those not infected in reported psychosexual characteristics and functioning. Adverse changes in these characteristics between the time of the diagnosis and subsequent follow-up were no more likely in those with the diagnosis than in those without.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-116
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Family Practice


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