Characterizing Trends in Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Discourse on Reddit (2007-2015): An Observational Study

Journal of Medical Internet Research logo
March 18, 2019

Long-lasting infections with high-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) can cause cancer in parts of the body where HPV infects cells, such as in the cervix, oropharynx, anus, rectum, penis, vagina, and vulva. Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV vaccination acceptance is a critical public health issue as low completion rates of the vaccine series place adolescents and young adults at risk for HPV-associated infection and cancers. The multiple factors that influence vaccine acceptance have been examined on traditional mass media and social media, including the understudied platform, Reddit. This study is the first to examine HPV discourse on Reddit, which provides insight about attitudes of HPV vaccination among a unique population that may not be readily accessible in traditional data surveillance methods. Our findings build upon the literature examining attitudes toward HPV vaccination online and in the media. Our goals were to assess whether discussions on Reddit reflected the competing narratives (cancer risk vs sexual promiscuity) described in the broader discourse and, secondly, to document and describe the full range of HPV vaccine–related topics discussed on Reddit.

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