By Berna Namata
Rwanda could become the first country in Africa to effectively fight cervical cancer following the launch of a comprehensive national prevention programme last week.
Rwanda will be the first country in Africa to offer a national prevention programme that includes the most advanced technologies and tools to protect girls and women from the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer.
HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection among women worldwide, with more than 270,000 dying each year.
Currently Rwanda has a population of 2.72 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
The country plans to reach approximately 128,000 girls aged 12-15 years for vaccination while women aged 35-40 years will be screened and treated.
The initiative is being implemented through a partnership between the government, Merck, US based drug manufacturer and Qiagen, a German diagnostics firm.
Merck has donated two million doses of Gardasil—the HPV vaccine, while Qiagen is donating 250,000 DNA based molecular screening tests with all the necessary equipment and training to successfully perform the tests during the first three years of the programme.
“The success of the long term impact of this programme is not about the donation; it is about the political commitment to develop the infrastructure and address what it needs to reach the women of Rwanda,” Dr Mark Feinberg, chief public health and science officer for Merck said.
According to the global coalition Cervical Cancer Action, there are pilot projects in Kenya, Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Tanzania and Uganda.
[Note from SaneVax: With all due respect to the author, the ‘facts’ stated in this article are not entirely accurate. It is not true that 270,000 people die each year as a result of HPV infection. They may die from diseases associated with HPV infection, but infection alone is only an additional risk factor for cervical cancer. The people of Rwanda, Kenya, Cameron, Ghana, Lesotho, Tanzania and Uganda need to know it will take decades before there is any proof HPV vaccination has an impact on cervical cancer. Perhaps these countries should reconsider and spend their precious health care budget on already proven, safe and effective cervical cancer prevention methods.]