Oshakati — In its quest to fight cervical cancer the ministry of health has in the last nine months, since the introduction of the Visual Inspection of the Cervix with Acetic Acid (VIA) technique, screened 11 000 women of whom 8 000 were HIV positive.
The director of special programmes in the ministry of health Anne-Marie Nitschke said that of the women who were screened one in ten needed treatment to remove pre-cancerous cells, while 90 percent received treatment on the same day at the clinic.
Currently VIA is accessible at 37 health facilities in 10 regions and is expected to be rolled out to 53 other facilities by September 2020.
Between 2008 and 2018 cervical cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, has claimed the lives of 572 women across the country.
The screening, which is aimed at detecting and treating cervical cancer at an early age, is done in collaboration with the government of the United States of America, through its Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar).
As the world commemorates cervical cancer month in January, Nitschke encouraged women who are sexually active, particularly those who are HIV positive, to get themselves screened.
"An HIV-positive woman is 5-6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than an HIV-negative woman. Even if the positive woman in on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) they are still at higher risk compared to HIV-negative women," said Nitschke.
HIV-negative women should be screened for cervical cancer between the ages of 25 and 50 and should be screened after every five years, while those who are HIV positive should commence screening at 20, after every two years.
The USA Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson encouraged women to get screened.
"I would like to call on all women, particularly women who are HIV positive and at the highest risk of cervical cancer, to set a date to go for screening and to pass on this message to female family members and friends. We must look out for each other and encourage each other to take care of our health," said Johnson.
According to Johnson, 1 000 HIV-positive Namibian women per month are receiving screening for cervical cancer through VIA.