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The psychosexual impact of testing positive for high‐risk cervical human papillomavirus (HPV): A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Kirsty F. Bennett, Jo Waller, Mairead Ryan, Julia V. Bailey, Laura A.v. Marlow

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1959-1970
Number of pages12
Issue number10
Early online date14 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


King's Authors


Many countries are implementing human papillomavirus (HPV)‐based cervical screening due to the higher sensitivity of the test compared with cytology. As HPV is sexually transmitted, there may be psychosexual consequences of testing positive for the virus. We aimed to review the literature exploring the psychosexual impact of testing positive for high‐risk cervical HPV.

MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL Plus, Web of Science, and EMBASE were searched with no date limits. We also searched the grey literature, reference lists of included articles and carried out forward citation searching. Eligible studies reported at least one psychosexual outcome among HPV‐positive women. Qualitative and quantitative papers were included. We extracted data using a standardised form and carried out a quality assessment for each article. We conducted a narrative synthesis for quantitative studies and a thematic synthesis for qualitative studies.

Twenty‐five articles were included. Quantitative study designs were diverse making it difficult to determine the impact that an HPV positive result would have in the context of routine screening. The qualitative literature suggested that psychosexual concerns cover a broad range of aspects relating to women's current and past relationships, both interpersonal and sexual.

The psychosexual impact of testing positive for high‐risk cervical HPV is unclear. This review highlights the need for further research in the context of HPV‐based cervical screening. As primary HPV testing is introduced more widely, it is important to understand women's responses to testing HPV positive in the cancer screening context to minimise any adverse psychosexual impact.

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