Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Wendy Simonds

Second Advisor

Eric Wright

Third Advisor

Dawn Baunach


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Many individuals, however, are misinformed about key aspects of the STI, negatively view the disease and those infected with it, and do not use preventive methods to protect themselves and others from transmission. For this study, I used in-person, semi-structured interviews to examine HPV knowledge among those with HPV and how this knowledge impacted individuals’ emotional state upon diagnosis. I also analyzed feelings of stigma among individuals with HPV and how these feelings and HPV knowledge impacted individuals’ motivations to disclose their status to others. I also examined status disclosure and sexual behavior among those with HPV and how HPV transmission knowledge impacted motivations and intentions to participate in prevention behaviors. I found that post-diagnosis many individuals were ill-informed about HPV transmission, dormancy, prevalence, clearance, impact on men, and association with cervical cancer. I also found that post-diagnosis many individuals were anxious and upset about their positive status and felt judged by some individuals in their lives. Confronting and internalizing this stigma impacted how and why they disclosed and withheld their positive HPV status. I also found that few individuals with HPV disclosed their status to all at-risk sex partners or used barrier methods consistently during sex. These findings suggest that practitioners’ messages and sexual education about HPV are inadequate. More work is needed to facilitate effective and empathetic patient-provider communication and HPV education that includes status disclosure and use of all barrier methods. These findings also suggest that the culture around HPV needs to change so that individuals with a positive status no longer undergo undue stress and can openly educate others about the STI.