July 20, 2024
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A group photo for the Stakeholders during the Cervical Cancer Conference at Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi.

By James Nyaigoti,

The Africa Health and Economic Transformation Initiative (AHETI) and the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network-Africa (JENA), in collaboration with key stakeholders including KILELE Health Association and the African Cervical Health Alliance (ACHA), recently convened a pivotal three-day conference themed “Uniting Faith and Science to Eliminate Cervical Cancer in Africa.”

Held from June 11-13, this significant event brought together faith leaders, experts, Civil Society Organizations and policy makers, to discuss comprehensive strategies for combating cervical cancer across Africa.

Father Charles Chilufya, Chair of the Convening Preparation Committee for AHETI, emphasized the vital discussions, innovative strategies, and actionable outcomes that emerged from the conference.

 

  • Establishing new partnerships and strengthening existing ones among faith-based organizations, health authorities, advocacy and community groups to enhance the reach and effectiveness of cervical cancer prevention efforts is vital.
  • Capacity Building for Faith Leaders: Successfully conducted multiple sessions and workshops for faith leaders, equipping them with the necessary and relevant knowledge and resources to advocate effectively for behavioral change communication, HPV vaccination, HPV screening, treatment, palliative care and survivorship.
  • Ramping Up Vaccination Efforts: A major focus of the convening was to leverage the resource of faith networks to significantly increase HPV vaccination rates. Committed to expanding access to vaccines by enhancing public awareness to ensure
    widespread uptake.
  • Expanded Screening Initiatives: The discussion resolved to utilize the resources of faith networks and the influence of faith leaders to broaden behavioral change activities, screening initiatives across the continent, employing advanced diagnostic technologies and improving infrastructure to reach remote and underserved areas.
  • Collaborative efforts with governments, national and international health organizations will help make screening a routine part of women’s healthcare.
  •  Strengthening service delivery and guidelines: The discussions highlighted the urgent need to enhance access to treatment protocols for pre-cervical and cervical cancer. This includes upgrading the capabilities of local health facilities, offering
    continuous training to healthcare professionals, and ensuring the availability of essential medical supplies and equipment for effective treatment.
  • Policy Engagement and Advocacy: The stakeholders proposed strategic discussions with policy makers to advocate for comprehensive cervical cancer care policies that support the implementation of advanced behavioral change communication, HPV vaccination, HPV screening, treatment, palliative care and survivorship.
From left, Father Charles Chilufya-, chair Convening Preparation Committee AHETI.
Father Germain Rajoelison- Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM)
Sister Regina Nthenya, Health Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya(HASK)
Pamela Savai, cervical cancer survivor.
Karen Nakawala- cervical cancer survivor and founder Teal Sisters Foundation, Zambia,
Imam Alidou Ilboudo- Muslim Religious Leader, Burkina Faso
  •  Monitoring and Evaluation: A framework for ongoing monitoring and evaluation has been established to assess the effectiveness of the strategies implemented for
    behavioral change communication, HPV vaccination, HPV screening, treatment, palliative care and survivorship. This will allow for continuous improvement based on real-time data and feedback from the participating regions.
  • Resolution to Sustain Momentum: There was a resolve to maintain the momentum generated during this convening through regular follow-up meetings and communications.

Father Charles concluded by emphasizing their commitment to engaging communities and raising awareness about the importance of behavioral change communication, HPV vaccination, screening, treatment, palliative care, and survivorship.

“We have crafted culturally sensitive advocacy strategies tailored to the specific needs and perspectives of various African communities, aiming to boost vaccine and screening uptake. We’ve also planned educational programs and workshops to dispel myths and reduce the stigma associated with cervical cancer.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, genital area, and throat. If left persistent, high-risk HPV infections can lead to the development of abnormal cells, which may eventually become cancerous.

In response to this significant health threat, the WHO launched the 90-70-90 global elimination strategy for cervical cancer in 2020. The ambitious goals of this initiative aim to be achieved by 2030 across all countries. The targets include: vaccinating 90% of girls with the HPV vaccine by age 15, screening 70% of women with a high-quality test by ages 35 and 45, and providing treatment to 90% of women with cervical disease.

By achieving these goals, the WHO hopes to make significant strides in preventing and controlling cervical cancer, which remains a major public health concern globally. The 90-70-90 strategy has the potential to save countless lives and improve the health and well-being of millions of women and girls worldwide.

 

 

 

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