World AIDS Day 2018
Linking cervical cancer prevention and HIV services
TogetHER joins HIV and AIDS activists worldwide to commemorate the 30th annual World AIDS Day on December 1st. HIV and cervical cancer are closely linked. Women living with HIV are around five times as vulnerable to cervical cancer as their HIV-negative peers, and twice as likely to die from invasive cervical cancer. Put simply, cervical cancer is one of the main causes of death for women living with HIV.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the theme “Know Your Status” for this year’s commemoration, and it resonates strongly with us. Knowing that she is HIV-positive enables a woman to recognize her particularly high risk for cervical cancer, and seek the cervical cancer screening that can save her life. It is senseless and irresponsible to screen and treat women for HIV, without also screening them routinely for cervical cancer.
Even in low-resource settings, cervical cancer can be effectively prevented, including in women living with HIV. One tool is the safe and effective vaccine against HPV, the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, ideally provided to girls as part of routine immunizations. Another tool is simple and inexpensive screening for pre-cancerous cervical lesions in women, and then immediate treatment if they are found. TogetHER seeks to increase access to these cervical cancer prevention tools for women around the world.
We are encouraged that the international health community is beginning to increase cervical cancer funding, and to focus on the linkages between HIV and cervical cancer. When we visit networks of women living with HIV, they plead for cervical cancer screening. They know these programs need to be linked.
TogetHER supports WHO’s “health for all” agenda that encompasses HIV and related health services, including screening and treatment for cervical cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Providing cervical cancer and HIV services in the same, integrated settings promotes overall good health while using health funds efficiently. For more information, please see TogetHER’s fact sheet on HIV and cervical cancer.
Remarkable progress has been made against both AIDS and cervical cancer since the first World AIDS Day in 1988. We already have effective tools to prevent both diseases, and TogetHER is committed to working toward the day when no person dies from either of them.
Byline: Jennie Aylward and Celina Schocken