Africa could face cervical cancer epidemic
By Mathias Haufiku
WINDHOEK – Urgent preventative action is needed to prevent cervical cancer spiralling out of out control in coming decades, stated the 2014 Africa Cervical Cancer Multi-Indicator Incidence and Mortality scorecard.
This appeal was made against the backdrop of over 23 million of the 34 million HIV-positive people in the world living in Africa, and the fact that cervical cancer is directly linked to HIV-positive women.
Cervical cancer kills an estimated 275 000 women every year. The link between HIV and cervical cancer is said to be direct and deadly.
HIV-infected women who are also infected with specific types of human papilloma virus (HPV) are more likely to contract cervical cancer than HIV-negative women.
The document, which was availed during the 8th Stop Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer in Africa Conference, highlights the need for universal access to services and commodities, including the human papilloma virus vaccine.
At the conference, African first ladies made public their concern about the burden of cervical cancer, a leading cause of death among women and which has now become a full-blown health problem.
In a declaration of African first ladies and spouses read by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr Albert Kawana, they said cancer can be addressed by applying long-term and short-term measures that encompass awareness-raising for the adoption of healthy lifestyle choices.
Kawana presented the Windhoek Declaration of African First Ladies/Spouses on Cervical, Breast and Prostate Cancer during the closing session of the conference.
“We are deeply concerned about the rise in communicable diseases generally and cervical, breast and prostate cancer morbidity and mortality in Africa in particular,” stated the first ladies in the declaration.
According to figures in the 2014 Africa Cervical Cancer Multi-Indicator Incidence and Mortality scorecard, African countries topping the list for cervical cancer are Malawi, Comoros, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
In terms of mortalities the document indicates Malawi, Mozambique, Comoros, Burundi and Zambia are the top five countries regarding mortality from cervical cancer.
The conference also saw the need to do more to mitigate misconceptions and stigma attached to cancer and integrate cervical, breast and prostate cancers, HIV and AIDS as well as maternal and child programmes.
They also vowed to support the efforts of governments to enhance the participation of African research institutes, universities, civil society, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders to support cancer prevention and treatment programmes in Africa.
The next conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya next July.