L-R: George Guimaraes, President and CEO, PCI; Celina Schocken, CEO, PRRR; Ambassador Deborah Birx, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Irma Alfaro-Beitz, Vice President of Global Health, QIAGEN; and Lisa Carty, Director of U.S. Liaison Office, UNAIDS
On Monday, at the annual Concordia Summit in New York City, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) and Project Concern International (PCI) announced a partnership to expand the fight against cervical cancer by providing screening and treatment for women in remote communities in Africa. The life-saving partnership will launch in Zambia to screen and treat even more women for cervical cancer and looks to expand this live-saving work in more countries across sub-Saharan Africa.
The session opened with an introductory message from Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chair of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon board. Dr. Rice spoke about the success of the PEPFAR program, history of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, and introduced Celina Schocken, CEO of PRRR, and George Guimaraes, President and CEO of PCI, to announce the partnership.
Ms. Schocken and Mr. Guimaraes spoke about the burden of cervical cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that 93,000 women in sub-Saharan Africa develop cervical cancer, and 57,000 die from it annually. A majority of these women are in their child-bearing and productive years and in turn leave 268,000 children without mothers. Furthermore, women who are HIV-positive are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer. In Zambia, PRRR and PCI have already screened 15,000 women for cervical cancer through mobile units, in which we are taking testing and treatment directly to women who culturally may not always seek testing or have limited access. Ms. Schocken and Mr. Guimaraes announced our intention to raise $6 million “to expand our work and reach even more women in Zambia, and to look to expanding our work across Africa.”
To illustrate the burden of cervical cancer, a short video was played to tell the story of Evelyn, a 34-year-old mother of six from Zambia diagnosed with Stage Two cervical cancer. The video illustrated the importance, and very human impact, of cervical cancer screening and treatment and provided a compelling story as to why we are scaling up the PRRR-PCI partnership.
Following the video, Lisa Carty, the Director of the U.S. Liaison Office for the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), was announced. Ms. Carty congratulated Mr. Guimaraes and Ms. Schocken on the launch of the partnership and introduced the other panelists: Ambassador Debbie Birx, Ambassador-at-Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and Irma Alfaro-Beitz, Vice President of Global Health at QIAGEN. Ms. Carty then moderated a discussion between Ambassador Birx, Ms. Alfaro-Beitz, Ms. Schocken, and Mr. Guimaraes.
In the discussion, the panelists discussed the importance of cervical cancer screening and treatment and the value of public-private partnerships. Ambassador Birx discussed the necessity of reducing stigma of a cancer diagnosis; with early detection of cervical cancer, women will be able to access treatment before it is too late, and a cancer diagnosis will no longer be a death sentence. Ms. Schocken focused on the importance of integration and leveraging existing tools to reach women where they are to prevent and treat cervical cancer in addition to HIV/AIDS and other health services. Ms. Alfaro-Beitz spoke about new tools to screen and treat for cervical cancer, such as HPV diagnostic testing through the QIAGEN careHPV™ machine, and how coalitions and partnerships make technologies accessible and affordable for those who need them most. Mr. Guimaraes focused on the importance of reaching communities, seen through PCI’s mobile clinics to provide services to rural areas of Zambia, and the importance of communities in social mobilization and awareness raising for cervical cancer prevention and treatment.
Many thanks to the Concordia Summit for providing such a great platform to discuss our partnership and all the panelists and moderator for their participation and encouragement of our programs. We look forward to achieving even greater impact with PCI over the next few years to support women’s health and providing the foundation for women to reach their full economic and social potential.
By Meera Sarathy, MPH, MBA, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Country Program Manager