INTERNATIONAL nonprofit organisation, Jhpiego, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, is intensifying efforts to prevent cervical cancer through Vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Representatives from Jhpiego and the ministry conducted a seminar to raise awareness among members of parliamentary committee on Community Development on the importance of HPV as the government continues vaccinating girls in the country to prevent the killer disease.
So far, many girls in the country have been vaccinated, according to the National Vaccination Plan Manager from the Health Ministry, Dr Dafrossa Lyimo.
Most sexually active men and women will contract the HPV virus at some point during their lifetime. HPV can be spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It can result in genital warts and some types of cancer.
In Tanzania the HPV vaccine is provided to only girls due to budgetary hiccups, Dr Lyimo told parliamentarians. HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.
Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV, according to Jhpiego Cervical Cancer and Prevention Senior Technical Advisor, Dr Mary Rose Giattas.
Dr Lyimo told the lawmakers that cervical cancer was the most common cancer in Tanzania and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths and suffering among women in the country.
Statistics in the ministry show that every year over 6,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 4,000 die from the disease.
Despite the burden, cervical cancer prevention services are not readily available and many women seek services when the disease is at advanced stage and it is too late to be cured.
However, as cervical cancer has a long latency period, usually taking over 10 years to progress from the initial infection with HPV, this provides a window of opportunity for early detection and treatment.
Cervical Cancer and Prevention Programme (CECAP), is a Jhpiego initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Mothers and Infants, Safe, Healthy and Alive (MAISHA) programme in collaboration with the ministry of health.