Cervical cancer remains a leading cause of death in many developing countries because limited screening by Papanicolaou (Pap) smear. We sought to better understand women's beliefs about cervical cancer and screening in Botswana, a middle-income African country with high rates of cervical cancer.
We interviewed 289 women attending general medicine or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) clinics, where Pap testing was available, in Gaborone, Botswana, in January 2009.
About three fourths (72%) of the respondents reported having ever had a Pap smear; HIV-positive women were more likely to have had a Pap smear than HIV-negative women (80% vs 64%; odds ratio, 1.97; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-3.55). Screening was also more common among women who were older, had higher incomes, or had heard of cervical cancer. Almost all participants reported a desire to have a Pap smear. Reasons included to determine cervical health (56%), to improve overall health (33%), and to obtain early treatment (34%). About half (54%) of the respondents said they did not know what causes cervical cancer, and almost none attributed the disease to human papillomavirus infection.
Study findings can inform interventions that seek to increase cervical cancer awareness and uptake of screening as it becomes more widely available.