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The Double Burden: HIV and Cervical Cancer Webinar with the International AIDS Society

Posted by On January 27, 2017

To mark Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon and the International AIDS Society hosted a webinar entitled “The Double Burden: HIV and Cervical Cancer.” Today, cervical cancer is preventable and curable if diagnosed and treated early. Yet, each year 266,000 women die from the disease and 85% of cervical cancer deaths occur in resource-limited settings. Women living with HIV, particularly those in low- and middle-income countries, are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer than HIV-negative women.

Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker, the President of IAS, opened the webinar. She introduced the topic of HIV and HPV coinfections and noted that women are particularly vulnerable to both HIV and cervical cancer. She reminded the listeners that topics of HIV co-infections and morbidities will be covered at the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017) in Paris, France in July. A key theme at IAS 2017 will be the interaction of HIV with other fields, such as the cancer research field. Additionally, the first HIV and Cure Forum will take place just prior to IAS 2017 in Paris from 22-23 July, focusing specifically on the interface and similarities between HIV cure and cancer research, and seek to merge these two disciplines to accelerate the pace of discovery in HIV cure research. Please register and find more information at www.ias2017.org.

Dr. Bekker introduced Celina Schocken, the CEO of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, to introduce the burden of HIV and cervical cancer and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s response. Ms. Schocken noted that 85% of the cervical cancer burden occurs in low-resource settings. Women with HIV are five times more likely to develop cervical cancer, yet HIV receives many times more funding and attention. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon works at the intersection of the diseases, believing that, as President George W. Bush said, “It makes no sense to save a woman’s life from AIDS, only to let her die from treatable or preventable cancer.” Ms. Schocken gave an overview of PRRR’s partners, approach, and results to date.

Ms. Schocken then introduced Dr. Corey Casper, a medical doctor and research, to present on the epidemiology and prevention of HIV-associated cervical cancer. Dr. Casper holds positions at the University of Washington departments of Epidemiology and Global Health, the Center for AIDS Research, and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute. He presented research from around the world, showing that cervical cancer is one of the most common malignancies found in women worldwide, but the burden is greatest in areas where co-infection with HPV and HIV is prevalent. He also presented evidence that HIV increases the risk for cervical cancer, and  complicates screening strategies. Survival after a diagnosis of cervical cancer in low-resource settings is poor. Dr. Corey spoke about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, and posited that HPV vaccination may eventually protect women from cervical cancer in HIV-endemic regions.  Additional research is needed into vaccine efficacy, durability, and implementation, and treatment of cervical pre-cancer and cancer needs to be improved throughout low-resource settings.

Finally, Dr. Sharon Kapambwe of the Zambian Ministry of Health presented on the implementation of integrated HIV and cervical cancer programs. Dr. Kapambwe is the Director of the Women’s Cancer Control and Prevention Program at the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), and has been seconded to the Ministry of Health as National Coordinator for Cancer Prevention, and is an integral partner to PRRR. Dr. Kapambwe presented on Zambia’s burden of disease, as the country has the fourth-highest rate of cervical cancer in the world (58.0 per 100,000 women), and an elevated HIV rate of 14.9% among women ages 15 to 49. She presented on Zambia’s response, a national cervical cancer screening program that has existed since 2006 and integrates with national HIV programs to leverage resources and reach the most vulnerable women. Dr. Kapambwe ended her presentation by giving an overview of opportunities and challenges in integrating HIV and cervical cancer services.

The webinar closed with thoughtful questions from the over 200 attendees. The recording is available online and we invite you to watch it and share among your networks! Please send any questions you have about the content of the webinar or Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon to info@pinkribbonredribbon.org.

Download the presentation slides