Perceptions of barriers and facilitators to cervical cancer screening among low-income, HIV-infected women from an integrated HIV clinic

Fletcher, F. E., Buchberg, M., Schover, L. R., Basen-Engquist, K., Kempf, M. C., Arduino, R. C., & Vidrine, D. J.

Significantly elevated rates of cervical cancer and low rates of Papanicolaou (Pap) smear screening have been documented among HIV-infected women. However, little is known about women's perceptions of cervical cancer screening utilization. Hence, this study describes barriers and facilitators related to cervical cancer screening in a sample of HIV-infected women seeking care at an integrated HIV clinic in Houston, Texas. Using an inductive qualitative methodological approach, data were obtained from five focus group discussions with a total of 33, HIV-infected women. The majority of the study sample consisted of women who self-identified as Black (69.7%), and reported heterosexual contact as the mode of HIV acquisition (75.8%). Barriers to cervical cancer screening were described as pain and discomfort associated with receiving Pap smears and subsequent procedures; lack of awareness of cervical cancer as a preventable disease; limited transportation access; and systemic issues as it relates to scheduling gynecological appointments. Facilitators were described as awareness of HIV-infected women's increased risk of cervical cancer and strong provider-patient relationships. To address disparities in cervical cancer screening among low-income HIV-infected women, programs should capitalize on the identified facilitators and alleviate modifiable barriers using multilevel strategies.

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