Rwanda: Call for Action to Eradicate Cervical Cancer Among Commonwealth Countries

Various key experts have called on governments to accelerate efforts geared at eliminating cervical cancer across the 54 Commonwealth countries to help save women and the world in general.

The call was made on June 21, during a meeting held on the margins of the ongoing Commonwealth Women Forum (CWF), held under the theme "Accelerating Cervical Cancer Elimination: Realities, Challenges, and Opportunities", and sought opportunities to expand the role of women leaders to be advocates for elimination.

Dr Ruth Kattumuri, the Senior Director of the Economic, Youth, and Social Policy Directorate at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said that there is an urgent need for governments and health professionals to work together to eliminate cervical cancer.

"Globally, cervical cancer is currently among the most pressing threats to women's health. Of the four cancers affecting women globally, cervical cancer is the only one that has proven effective elimination strategies through the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and early screening tools for pre-cancerous lesions," she said

However, she pointed out that the progress has been slow because many low- and middle-income countries are experiencing challenges with access to screening tools and HPV vaccines.

In addition, she mentioned other challenges including stigma and misconceptions surrounding cervical cancer which are still high.

Kattumuri however said that eliminating it requires strategic policies and actions by governments among others to improve awareness and address access challenges.

Though cervical cancer is treatable and preventable, it is the most common cause of cancer death in some countries and if nothing is done it is estimated that one woman will die of cervical cancer every three minutes if no action is taken by 2030.

Speaking on the same occasion, Dr. Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children, and Adolescents at the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighted the need for collective action to achieve the Commonwealth's elimination targets by 2030 and achieve vaccine inequity in countries where the cancer burden is the highest.

"We really should be very angry that in the 21st century we are still talking about women dying of cervical cancer when we have the tools, technology, and know-how to eliminate it," she said

For the first time since the pandemic, various experts such as cervical cancer researchers, policymakers, academics, advocates, and civil society among others have gathered to discuss the current challenges, priorities, and strategies for cervical cancer elimination across the Commonwealth.

During that session, they have set different recommendations for the elimination of cervical cancer including addressing the inequity of access to cervical cancer elimination tools and increasing investment in their national cervical cancer control plans, in alignment with the WHO Global Strategy for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer and the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, they also recommend that heads of governments take steps to ensure that by 2025, girls in the Commonwealth have access to vaccination against HPV infection by age 13, in accordance with commitments made during the 33rd and 34th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meetings (CHMM), and country contexts.

The number of new cases of cervical cancer is expected to rise by 55 percent (to 324,598) and deaths by 62 percent (to 186,066 deaths) by 2030 experts revealed.

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