216726 Impact of Latina's Constructions of Sexuality on their Use of Pap Smears

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 12:30 PM - 12:50 PM

Francisca Angulo Olaiz, PhD , Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development, Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA
BACKGROUND: How do the National Cancer Institute guidelines for pap smears and constructions of sexuality among Latinas conflict? Could these contradictions explain, in part, low pap smear screening rates among Latinas? How do everyday experiences inform and define risk factors? Examining how sexuality is introduced and explained to Latinas, usually at the onset of their menstrual cycle, provides a basis for understanding how early social constructions of sexuality influences ideas concerning who should get pap smears, when, and why. The gender ideologies and norms in Latino culture promote virginity until marriage, precluding open discussions not only about relationships with men, but also about the body and the entire gamut of processes related to reproductive health. How values and beliefs shape health behaviors is not always explicit or direct, but important to understand in creating effective health prevention and intervention programs and messages, an especially urgent challenge, given the high incidence rate of cervical cancer and the low use of pap smears among Latinas. METHODS: An ethnographic study consisting of in-depth, semi-structured interviews and participant observation were conducted with 43, Spanish and English speaking, Latinas living in Los Angeles, California. RESULTS: The dilemma that the NCI's guidelines pose for unmarried young women if they contemplate having a pap smear is that they become vulnerable to accusations of not being a virgin and their value as women compromised. Understanding the context of Latina health may help to develop culturally competent messages that speak directly to Latinas.

Learning Areas:
Diversity and culture
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how social constructions of sexuality and cultural values may influence the use of pap smears

Keywords: Latinas, Sexuality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted this ethnographic study and analyzed data to be presented.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.