HPV and Cervical Cancer: Asian Americans Face Cultural Stigma and Misleading Data


When Joslyn Chaiprasert-Paguio was 18, her mother signed her up for a life insurance policy. One of the requirements was to get a pap smear. That was a first for her, as Chaiprasert-Paguio had never been to the gynecologist, and all of her knowledge of reproductive health came from one long anatomy conversation her mom had with her after hitting puberty.

“Growing up in a very traditional Chinese [and Thai] household, it was very quiet,” Chaiprasert-Paguio, now 39, explains. In her Asian community in San Gabriel Valley, it wasn’t appropriate to talk about sex, or anything below the belt at all, she says.

So, when her pap smear came back positive for human papillomavirus (HPV), she was shocked and confused. She had never even heard of the sexually transmitted infection (STI). 

When I first was diagnosed with HPV my first question was: How did I get this? Is it contagious? Could I pass it off to my boyfriend at the time?” Chaiprasert-Paguio says. After doing her own research, she became concerned about what strain of HPV she had, and whether it could lead to cervical cancer. 


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