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Protecting our Khmer daughters: ghosts of the past, uncertain futures, and the human papillomavirus vaccine



The FDA approved the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in 2006. Research into parental decision-making and concerns about HPV vaccination highlights questions about parenting and parents' role in the crafting of their daughters' future sexuality. In contrast to much of this literature, we explore narratives from interviews with Cambodian mothers of HPV vaccine-age eligible daughters who experienced genocide and came to the USA as refugees.


We conducted in-depth, in-person interviews with 25 Cambodian mothers of HPV vaccine-age eligible daughters. Interviews were conducted in Khmer and translated into English for analysis. We followed standard qualitative analysis techniques including iterative data review, multiple coders, and 'member checking.' Five members of the research team reviewed all transcripts and two members independently coded each transcript for concepts and themes.


Interview narratives highlight the presence of the past alongside desires for protection from uncertain futures. We turn to Quesada and colleagues' concept structural vulnerability to outline the constraints posed by these women's positionalities as genocide survivors when faced with making decisions in an area with which they have little direct knowledge or background: cervical cancer prevention.


Our study sheds light on the prioritization of various protective health practices, including but not exclusive to HPV vaccination, for Khmer mothers, as well as the rationalities informing decision-making regarding their daughters' health.

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