UNAIDS : : 06 April 2017 — The combination of HIV and cervical cancer is putting women’s lives at risk. The two diseases are inextricably linked, with women living with HIV up to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Both diseases are preventable and can be treated effectively, but only if caught early. HPV infection can be prevented through vaccination. If infection does occur, the direct medical costs of detecting and removing cervical pre-cancer can amount to less than US$ 25 per person. HIV is preventable, but if infection does occur, responds well to treatment, albeit lifelong, which can cost as little as US$ 100 per person per year.
As part of efforts to ensure that women have accurate information about the risk of cervical cancer and HIV and have access to integrated services, President George W. Bush and Ms Bush, the First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, the Chief of Staff of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), Marijke Wijnroks, and Celina Schocken, Chief Executive Officer of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, visited the Windhoek Central Hospital in Namibia to find out more about the “screen-and-treat” services it will be starting in the next few months.
The “screen-and-treat” programme will enable medical staff to screen women for precancerous lesions and treat them during the same visit. The programme has been supported by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, a partner of UNAIDS that is working to increase access to cervical and breast cancer services in resource-limited settings.
HIV prevalence is estimated at more than 13% in Namibia and in 2015 there were 120 000 women living with the virus. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women after breast cancer in Namibia.
During the visit, representatives of the Global Fund and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon signed a collaboration agreement, which will see savings from cost efficiencies in HIV programming being used to expand efforts to integrate HPV screening and early treatment in countries where the Global Fund already supports HIV programmes.
Michel Sidibé announced that UNAIDS will also be supporting efforts by providing funding to support networks of women living with HIV in Namibia and ensuring community mobilization, engagement and education so that women living with HIV are referred to and have access to services. Part of the funds will also go to reducing stigma and discrimination around HIV and cervical cancer to ensure that women can access the care and support they need.
“SCREENING AND EARLY TREATMENT FOR CERVICAL CANCER SAVES LIVES. UNAIDS IS COMMITTED TO ENSURING THAT WOMEN LIVING WITH HIV KNOW THE RISKS AND HAVE TIMELY ACCESS TO THE HIV AND CANCER SERVICES THEY NEED. THIS INTEGRATED APPROACH IS CRITICAL FOR THEIR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.”
“WE EXPECT THAT THIS EFFORT WILL GO ON TO SAVE MANY LIVES AND BUILD EVEN MORE LIVELIHOODS. BY ACHIEVING THE GOALS OF THIS PARTNERSHIP, WE WILL STAY TRUE TO THE CALLING TO FOCUS ON THE NEEDS OF A PERSON, A FAMILY, A COMMUNITY, NOT A DISEASE.”
“PINK RIBBON RED RIBBON’S SUCCESS IS ROOTED IN THE COMMITMENT OF GOVERNMENTS AND THE STRENGTH OF ITS PARTNERSHIPS. IT IS THROUGH THE SUPPORT OF GOVERNMENTS IN THE COUNTRIES WHERE WE WORK THAT WE ARE ABLE TO HAVE AN IMPACT. WE ARE PLEASED THAT THE GLOBAL FUND IS REPROGRAMMING FUNDING FOR CERVICAL CANCER IN NAMIBIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES. THIS FUNDING WILL HELP THE COUNTRIES PROCURE THE APPROPRIATE RESOURCES – IN EQUIPMENT, TRAINING AND HUMAN CAPITAL – THAT IS NEEDED TO PREVENT AND TREAT CERVICAL CANCER, AND TO ENSURE THAT WOMEN LEAD HEALTHY, PRODUCTIVE LIVES.”