Powerful Voices for Eliminating Cervical Cancer at UN Side Event
On the eve of the 3rd United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), a panel of international experts spotlighted cervical cancer, which is one NCD that could be eliminated as a public health problem by scaling up access to the tools already available.
Elimination is “a cost-effective investment,” said panelist Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the World Health Organization’s department addressing NCDs. Princess Dina Mired, President-elect of the Union for International Cancer Control, called cervical cancer “low-hanging fruit” for elimination.
TogetHER premiered its new “Faces of Hope” story series at the event, screening short videos that tell the stories of women, health care providers, and public health professionals battling cervical cancer in Kenya.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, noted that more women die each year from cervical cancer than during childbirth, and asserted that people should be “screaming for” every girl to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer. According to Dr. Berkley, the world has the money, the know-how, and 25 million girls in countries with programs for HPV vaccination – but there is a shortage of vaccine. “25 million girls are waiting for the vaccine,” he said, a shortfall that must be resolved. He observed that vaccine programs also offer an “amazing opportunity” to reach young adolescent girls with other health interventions.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé highlighted the particular vulnerability to cervical cancer of women living with HIV, and described cervical cancer as an “issue of social justice and distribution of opportunity.” He pointed out the extremely heavy burden of cervical cancer in low- and middle-income countries in contrast to high-income countries.
TogetHER Advisory Board member and insurance company executive Linda Lane described the role of the private sector in working with other sectors toward cervical cancer elimination. Businesses, according to Ms. Lane, recognize that investing in cervical cancer programs has a return on investment – that their contributions can truly “move the needle in a significant way.” She described how private sector funding enables organizations working on cervical cancer to maximize the value of funds from other sources, like the public sector, that may have greater restrictions on their use.
The panelists were in agreement that no one sector or interest group has the power to eliminate cervical cancer. “It’s all together that we can succeed,” urged Thierry Bernard, Senior Vice President at QIAGEN.
Byline: Jennie Aylward