Accra, Sept. 14, GNA - Cervical cancer is the most common women’s affliction in Sub-Saharan Africa and the third most common ailment in females, with 530,000 new cases and 275,000 deaths each year.
About 80-90 per cent of women in the Region have never had a pelvic examination.
More than 85 per cent of the global burden of cervical cancer occurs in developing countries, yet the World Health Organisation estimates that fewer than five per cent of these women have access to screening even once in a lifetime.
Cervical cancer is four to five times more common among women who are HIV-positive.
Currently, almost seven million people living with HIV are alive because of access to antiretroviral therapy and new HIV infections have fallen by nearly 20 per cent in the last 10 years.
Breast cancer is estimated to result in 1.4 million new cases and kills 458,000 women each year globally.
This was contained in a statement issued by the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy in Accra on Tuesday on the overview of Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon, which educates, tests, diagnoses and treats cervical and breast cancer in African and Latin American countries.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is an innovative partnership to leverage public and private investments in global health to combat cervical and breast cancer – two of the leading causes of cancer death in women - in developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
Led by the George W. Bush Institute, the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon will expand the availability of vital cervical cancer screening and treatment—especially for high-risk HIV-positive women – and also promote breast cancer education.
The partnership will leverage the platform and resources of PEPFAR — established under President Bush and a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s Global Health Initiative and will draw from lessons learned in the significant scale-up of HIV services in recent years.
With initial commitments of 75 million dollars across five years, Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon will expand to achieve some goals.
These include reducing deaths from cervical cancer by an estimated 25 per cent among women screened and treated through the initiative; significantly increase access to breast and cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment; and create innovative models that can be scaled up and used globally.
The Founding Partners are making some commitments to support national and local leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America to catalyse a dynamic, lifesaving collaboration:
The George W. Bush Institute, provide overall co-ordination of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, including designing a comprehensive accountability framework, creating plans together with each participating country, evaluating results within communities, and working with all partners to ensure successful attainment of shared goals.
Office of the US Global Aids Co-ordinator, through agencies of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is undertaking new funding to increase capacity of cervical cancer screening and treatment in PEPFAR-supported clinics in Africa.
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS UNAIDS will provide high-level advocacy and communication strategies linking HIV response to cervical and breast cancer and provide technical expertise, especially related to the integration of HIV screening and treatment with that of cervical and breast cancers.
The Founding Corporate Members are Merck that donated vaccine and support for grassroots cervical cancer awareness, Becton Dickinson provided cervical cancer screening tests, equipment, and training for country-based health care workers on occupational safety and key clinical and laboratory procedures—all vital components of healthcare capacity building and sustainability.
Others are Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, which would build upon its flagship corporate philanthropy programme, Secure the Future, to incorporate cervical and breast cancer training into community-based treatment support programmes
QIAGEN, contributed test kits, training, and support services to improve access to high quality diagnostic care to prevent cervical cancer, based on an advanced test for HPV DNA and an HPV DNA test specifically developed for low resource settings.
Caris Foundation, provided pathology training and support, tumour profiling, and other innovative technologies based on the sophisticated diagnostic, prognostic and theranostic services that make the organisation an academic medical institution with the innovative spirit of a technology company.
GlaxoSmithKline, provided vaccines that prevented infection with HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer, as part of an overall corporate programme to help developing countries where access to life-saving vaccines can help save millions.
IBM provided a scalable and replicable in-country implementation plan for the communications infrastructure required to co-ordinate, evaluate, and continuously improve the activities of multiple organisations across numerous communities.
The statement said there was an urgent need to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to address women’s cancers in developing nations where these diseases were often neglected and associated with stigma that discouraged women from accessing life-saving services.
It said building on HIV platforms, infrastructure and resources, with the support of PEPFAR and country partners could integrate simple, cost-effective prevention, screening and treatment for cervical cancer, with the goal of significantly reducing cervical cancer deaths among women screened and treated.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon will also work to expand access to breast cancer education, and promote advocacy and increase awareness of breast cancer.
As breast cancer has not been linked to HIV, it does not fall within PEPFAR’s mandate and PEPFAR funds will not be used for direct support of breast cancer activities.
The statement said the relationship between HIV and cervical cancer, is that infection with HIV weakens the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to fight infections that may lead to cancer.
Cervical cancer is four to five times more common among women living with HIV than women who are HIV-negative.
Integrating HIV and cervical cancer screening and treatment services is an effective and efficient method of responding to the diseases. Many of the same techniques and entry points that are mobilised for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support can be successfully combined to screen and treat cervical cancer.
On the implementation of the initiative, the statement said Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon would work with national governments to support their planning, policy development, and programme implementation related to breast and cervical cancer.
There is a key need for partners from all sectors, public and private, to address this critical initial step.
Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon will scale up over time as countries develop plans and additional partners join to support them.
The programme will aim to increase awareness of cervical and breast cancer and prevention and treatment modalities, reduce stigma, mobilise communities, expand access to HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, diagnosis, care and treatment of cervical cancer and breast cancer.
“To assure programme implementation, scale-up and sustainability, it will be critical to have committed leadership and investment from participating countries, including key support from communities, civil society, and affected individuals,” the statement added.