14 August 2020
This week WHO DG Dr. Tedros Adhanom and ADG Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela announced that the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer has been adopted by WHO Member States. This is an exciting step forward!
In terms of eliminating cervical cancer, we’ve moved from a WHO call to action, to a global strategy, and now to the adoption of specific targets for each WHO member state to reach by the year 2030:
90% of girls to be fully vaccinated by age 15
70% of women to be screened at least twice with a high performance test
90% of women with cancer or pre-cancer to receive appropriate treatment, including palliative care
So what happens next? Australia is the lead member state behind this adoption process, so we asked IPVS Vice President Dr. Suzanne Garland the following:
Q: To achieve these goals there are several big challenges, not the least being government endorsements, delivery of these services and finances, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. What do you think can we do to keep HPV on the radar screen?
SG: Well, the measures to control COVID-19 we know include basic infection control practices, i.e. hand hygiene, physical distancing and detection of cases and rapid contact tracing with isolation of case and quarantining of contacts. We await a safe and effective vaccine. Yet we know the cause of cervical cancer (a virus called human papillomavirus or HPV), for which we can screen (as it takes years for cancers to develop) and treat precancerous lesions from developing into cancer. Early detection of cancers with appropriate treatment can save lives. As prevention, we have several well studied, safe, efficacious vaccines interrupting against HPV infection and the diseases they cause. So, we have an opportunity to prevent these cancers by offering HPV vaccines to young girls before viral exposure. With high coverage vaccination, we could make cervical cancer become a rare disease globally. We need to get this message out at all levels of society with strong endorsement of all Governments. It is an imperative to protect the next generation of young women and their partners.