Longtime women’s health advocates Celina Schocken and Kathy Vizas formed TogetHER, a global partnership focused on advocacy and communications, to raise awareness and drive action on cervical cancer.
On May 22, 2018, the World Health Organization’s Director General issued a call to action to end cervical cancer. This goal is in reach but will take hard work. We need a concerted, focused push to save the lives of over 311,000 women who die each year from this disease. We know we can beat cervical cancer because the tools to prevent it are simple, effective, and inexpensive.
Scaling up access to cervical cancer prevention tools is critical. Girls (and boys) need access to the safe and effective vaccines against Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. Women should receive the quick and painless screening that identifies precancerous lesions, and immediate treatment when precancer is detected.
Cervical cancer programs are cost-effective, especially when integrated into other health programs. TogetHER is increasing access to these prevention tools by working with partners to integrate cervical cancer screening into HIV and reproductive health programs. Women living with HIV are 5-6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer, so they should be routinely screened for the disease. Family planning services also complement cervical cancer services; uptake of both types of services increases considerably when they are provided together in clinics.
Alongside the scale-up of existing tools against cervical cancer, TogetHER fosters the development and introduction of new diagnostic and treatment tools to reach more girls and women with even greater impact, and at even lower cost.
TogetHER is bringing together partners working to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health threat, the goal identified by the WHO Director General. We choose to focus on advocacy and communications because we know how to address this disease – and we have the tools we need – but health workers and governments need help to implement prevention and treatment programs. The WHO Director General’s call to action is an opportunity to focus our efforts on the most effective ways to prevent cervical cancer. TogetHER has answered the call, and together we will end cervical cancer deaths.