CERVICAL cancer is presenting a double burden for countries with high HIV prevalence like Lesotho, Her Majesty Queen 'Masenate Mohato Seeiso, said this week.
She spoke during a virtual conference to mark the launch of the cervical cancer elimination strategy. The conference was attended by various countries that have signed up for the strategy promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
She said cervical cancer had the most negative impact on poverty, as many of the women who die of cervical cancer were the main source of income for their families.
"These deaths significantly weaken the fabric of the family unit, especially in countries like Lesotho, with high HIV prevalence rates, as this presents a double burden of diseases," she said.
The Queen said cervical cancer mortality also had high economic costs over the short to long term as treatment costs were overwhelmingly high. For instance, Lesotho spent about M100 000 for treatment of a single cervical patient referred to South Africa.
"Often, family members lose work opportunities while caring for a loved one. When a breadwinner dies, the resulting loss of income can force drastic changes in family priorities, with education often becoming less of a priority."
She said the government was implementing a robust cervical cancer prevention and control programme to ensure that the country was on the track to join the world in achieving elimination of cervical cancer by 2030.
"Lesotho has started strengthening the primary prevention efforts by planning for national re-introduction of the HPV vaccine for the nine to 14-year-old girls from 2022. Moreover, screening services are now available at all health facilities in the country."
The strategy will assist the government in reducing poverty, sustaining access to education, improving child health and empowering women.
"With sufficient political will and resources, elimination of cervical cancer is possible, and can be achieved," said the Queen.
Her Majesty added that in 2018, cervical cancer was the most common form of cancer among women and accounted for 44 percent of all cancer cases per 100 000 women. It had a mortality rate of 39, 1 percent.
"In 2014 only 11 percent of women were screened for cervical cancer in Lesotho. This low coverage is a major concern as women access screening services late... ," the Queen said.