70,000 women died of cervical cancer in 2020 – WHO

The World Health Organisation African Region has put the number of women that died as a result of cervical cancer in 2020 at 70,000.

In a message to mark the 2024 cervival cancer awareness month Wednesday, the Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said the number represents 21 per cent of global cases of the diseases.

According to the UN agency, 100,000 women developed cervival cancer in the African Region.

She said, “Cervical cancer disproportionately affects some of our most vulnerable communities.”

The theme of this month’s campaign is titled: be informed; get screened; and get vaccinated.

Moeti noted that a lack of knowledge, awareness of the disease, and access to screening was responsible high rate of the disease saying there is a “need to urgently to ensure that the HPV vaccine reaches all our young women between the ages of 9 to 14 years. This requires us to focus on our immediate needs in order to address these gaps.

“It is critical that young women in particular know about the link between cervical cancer and the human papilloma virus (HPV). Almost all (99%) of cervical cancer is linked to this common virus, that is transmitted during sex.

“Knowing about this link with a common viral infection means that it is now easier to screen women for the disease. And third, get vaccinated – this disease can be prevented by vaccinating young women, so preventing HPV infection,” she said.

To tackle this unacceptable burden, the African Region Director said, the body must carry out awareness campaign to empower women with knowledge, at school, by clinic staff, and from women who are living with the disease.

“Understanding the link between the disease and HPV will encourage screening, and HPV vaccination among young women,” she said.

She explained that “as a region, we have a specific public health framework, launched in 2021, aimed at accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem in Africa. This framework contains concrete actions that can be taken to reach the following targets: 90% of girls are fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by 15 years of age; 70% of women are screened using a high-performance test by 35 years of age and again by 45 years of age; and 90% of women with pre-cancer are treated, and 90% of women with more advanced cancer are managed.

“We also need to be aware that women living with HIV have increased susceptibility to HPV infection and so an increased risk of cervical cancer. While this is a particular challenge in the African Region, with our high levels of HIV infection, this is also an opportunity.

“We can use our HIV screening and treatment services as another opportunity to raise awareness of cervical cancer, and offer screening and vaccination to women attending HIV services.

“Around 235,000 women living with HIV were screened from November 2020 to October 2021. Between 2022 and 2023, there was an increase of 30% in cervical cancer screening rates among women living with HIV.

Moeti assured that keeping the rate of infection of the disease very low remains a key focus of the agency in 2024.

“Third, the WHO Regional Office for Africa will continue to work with our countries and a range of partners and stakeholders to accelerate action against cervical cancer and ensure that no woman in Africa needs to be diagnosed with this devastating disease,” she said.













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