By Asmau Ahmad
No woman should lose her life to cervical cancer when there are tools to prevent, make early diagnoses and treat it, Global Health Leaders and advocates have said.
This is especially as new research on the efficacy of a one-dose HPV vaccine regimen and progress toward elimination in several countries, among other factors, are bringing the world closer to eliminating cervical cancer.
About 1,200 global health leaders, health professionals and advocates from over 100 countries have added their names to the urgent action to make cervical cancer elimination a global priority.
The call followed the creation of the Global Declaration to Eliminate Cervical Cancer, by 12 leading public health experts and researchers.
The initiative was launched on May 21 at the ongoing World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Signatures from no fewer than 1,200 global health leaders and advocates representing over 100 countries, including former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, and Chief Executive Officer of Amref Health Africa, Githinji Gitahi, were appended.
The Declaration was led by scientists, healthcare providers and advocates for immunisation, cancer eradication and women’s health around the world, including Prof. Isaac Adewole of the University of Ibadan.
Adewole is also a former Minister of Health in Nigeria and Co-Founder of African Cancer Coalition – Nigeria
Others include Dr Neerja Bhatla (India), Dr Suzanne Garland (Australia), Dr Fatma Guenoune (Senegal), Dr Faysal El Kak (Lebanon), Prof. Nelly Rwamba Mugo (Kenya) and Dr Firdausi Qadri (Bangladesh).
Prof. Helen Rees (South Africa), Prof. Margaret Stanley (UK), Dr Luisa Lina Villa (Brazil) and Prof. Fanghui Zhao (China) are also among the lead scientist and advocates.
According to them, the call for action from country leaders, the private sector, vaccine manufacturers, community leaders and others to make cervical cancer elimination a global priority, requires high-level commitment and resources to make it a reality.
“As physicians, nurses, health professionals, community health workers, patient advocates, scientists, and public health experts, we believe that eliminating cervical cancer is both achievable and an essential step in advancing the health and well-being of girls, women, families and communities around the world.
“We call for urgent action to make cervical cancer elimination a global priority, with high-level commitment and resources to make it a reality.
“No woman should lose her life to cervical cancer when we have the tools to prevent and, especially when diagnosed early, to treat it.
“No woman should lose her life to cervical cancer when we have the tools to prevent, and, especially when diagnosed early, to treat it.
“The Declaration https://www.cervicalcancerdeclaration.org/#read-the-declaration aims to reaffirm the commitments of WHO’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer as a Public Health Problem,” the declaration said.
The call to action comes at a pivotal time for cervical cancer elimination.
The Global Health Leaders and advocates said that results from a new study conducted by researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute and
Massachusetts General Hospital, show that eliminating cervical cancer was feasible with strong political and financial commitments.
They noted improved global vaccine supply and progress toward cervical cancer elimination from countries such as Australia and Rwanda,
In his remarks to the assembly, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, highlighted WHO’s commitment to eliminating cervical cancer, and urged member-states to scale up services.
According to WHO, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally.
Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable, but is common among women aged 15 years to 44 years, claiming about 7,900 women’s lives each year from about 12,000 cases reported in Nigeria.
Two human papillomavirus (HPV) types (16 and 18) are responsible for nearly 50 per cent of high-grade cervical pre-cancers.
HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, and most people are infected with HPV shortly after onset of sexual activity, while a large percentage of them clears the infection eventually.
Women living with HIV are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to women without HIV.
Vaccination against HPV and screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage and treated promptly.
Since WHO’s call for action in 2018, there is stronger conviction that cervical cancer can be eliminated.
This is based on several important developments.
After years of HPV vaccine supply constraints, pharmaceutical companies have been ramping up manufacturing capacity, and more have joined the market, to meet demand in the coming years.
The 2022 WHO recommendation that a one-dose HPV vaccine regimen has comparable efficacy and duration of protection as a multi-dose schedule in girls, aged nine years to 14 years, makes it easier for countries to overcome logistical and resource challenges and increase vaccination coverage levels.