Tett advocates for war against cervical cancer

By Henry Neondo

The chairperson of the Kenya Women Parliamentarian Association and Nominated MP, Betty Njeri Tett urged the government yesterday to prioritize the issue of cervical cancer.

Speaking while launching the “Global Call to Action Campaign” in Nairobi at the ongoing International Women Summit in Nairobi, Tett said cervical cancer is entirely preventable, so it is unacceptable that women in Kenya and developing countries in general lack access to new innovations in preventing and treating this disease adding that women are an indispensable resource in every society adding that Women, and mothers in particular, know the value of vaccines in the prevention and control of diseases.

She challenged fellow women parliamentarians to be good advocates against cervical cancer saying it should be part of a comprehensive approach to reproductive health for both women and men.

She asked Parliamentarians to prioritize HIV & HPV vaccines in National Development Programmes, Health services, and National budget allocations.

According to Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, General Secretary, YWCA, cervical cancer which is caused by the human papillovirus strikes more than 500, 000 women annually.

In Kenya , Anne Korir of the Cancer Registry, Kenya Medical Research Institute said although there is no national cancer registry, yet the data KEMRI collects from Kenyatta National Hospital and other hospitals in the country shows that 20 percent of women in Kenya suffer cervical cancer, which is the second higest killing cancer in women.

Due to extreme limited screening and treatment, 80 percent of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur in developing countries making it the most common cause of cancer-related deaths for women in these countries.

New vaccines which protect against the most dangerous strains of HPV are largely unavailable in the developing world.

These vaccines and innovations in HPV screening and treatment for women have the potential to end the threat of cervical cancer worldwide.

“We are aware of the impact vaccines have had in the control of childhood diseases and the way they have helped in reducing infant and child deaths in our countries. Adding a vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer to the list of existing vaccines is a major achievement of our time”, said Tett.

In Kenya, Merck Sharp and Dhome pharmaceutical has availed a vaccine, Gerdasil, for immunisation young girls before their first sexual experience. But at USD380, few can afford vaccines and the civil society’s campaign launched yesterday aims to galvanise the global community to ensure that vaccines reach the poorer members of communities at affordable price.

“The world cannot afford to wait for new HPV vaccines and screening test to eventually trickle down from the wealthy to developing countries where women need these life-saving products”, said Dr Ariel Pablos-Mendez, a managing director, Rockfeller Foundation adding that cervical cancer is largely preventable and women must not be left to die for want of access to these products..

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