Following the call to action by Dr Tedros in May this year, we have sought to consolidate the political commitment the ambition to eliminate cervical cancer requires with Heads of State. Many thanks to those of you that took the time to sign our petition – we used this tool to emphasise the critical role of civil society in realising the elimination goal with global leaders.
This event was hosted by the President of Zambia and co-sponsored by Australia, Brazil and Thailand.
His Excellency President Edgar Lungu, President of Zambia, His Excellency President Roch Marc Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso represented by the Minister of Health and Her Excellency Dr Lalla Malika Issoufou, The First Lady of Niger opened the side event “A World Free of Cervical Cancer” to a full room, with representatives at Minister level of a further ten countries, heads of agencies and leaders of NGOs. The meeting launched a short UICC film featuring the ambition to eliminate cervical cancer: https://vimeo.com/291437559/da79b500bb CMO of Australia Brendan Murphy, introducing this film said that “cervical cancer elimination is totally realistic and will contribute to the SDGs, UHC and gender equality”.
His Excellency President Lungu emphasized the highest cervical cancer incidence rates at 56/100.000 annually, recognizing the co-infection of HIV and HPV as a driver of this burden. HE pledged his countries commitment to the elimination cause calling on industry partners to reduce further the price of the HPV vaccine and the international stakeholders to show more political will to help support the huge investment which countries like Zambia will need to make in order to be successful. HE expressed his exasperation at the new Globocan 2018 statistics that illustrate a frightening rise in incidence and mortality statistics since the last report in 2012 and the intimidating projection that rates are set to increase by 50% by the year 2040, with this growth also being inequitable, with low Human Development Index countries having the greatest relative increase in the annual number of cases from 2012 to 2040.
Professor Nicolas Madem, Minister of Health, speaking on behalf of the president of Burkina Faso also pledged his countries commitment to the elimination ambition, emphasizing the international solidarity required for continued GAVI support of the HPV vaccine and the importantly critical capacity building which countries like Burkina Faso will require to response and move faster to scale up vaccination, screening and treatment. Seth Berkley stated that “we know that we can introduce HPV vaccine at high coverage levels - lets look at Rwanda with one of the highest coverage rates in the world”. By 2030 Berkley noted, we can introduce sufficient HPV vaccine to avoid 5-4 – 6M deaths, the GAVI board is committed to supporting national level roll out.
Dr Suwit emphasized the critical role in of universal health coverage in increasing Thailand’s ability to drive screening coverage from 30 to 70% in recent years. Lelio Marmora Executive Director of Unitaid pointed to the emerging science and innovation to improve the impact of screening. Following the Unitaid call for proposals for detection and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions made in May, he shared that there are many excellent proposals which are focusing on marketing shaping and introduction of new technologies at scale. “The Unitaid board is pledging an investment of 50 Million USD to these acceleration projects to be announced early in 2019” said Marmora.
Honourable Minister of Health of Nigeria, Isaac Adewohle championed the role of regional and pan-national support such as the pledge in May of the Heads of Commonwealth to work together on sharing best practice and collaboration for example in pooled procurement, technical cooperation, supply management and demand planning. Sir Trevor echoed the important role of PAHO in facilitating support, especially for small island States. Adewole moved on to emphasise the critical investments required to treat cervical cancers – highlighting a shocking case of a young 17 year old girl recently diagnosed in his practice. He explained that the Nigerian governmental commitment is following through with development of treatment capacity for surgery oncology, radiotherapy and brachytherapy in 8 facilities across the country, acknowledging the role of peer support from experts in Zambia in this regard. HRH Princess Dina Mired spoke from her experience in Jordan and emphasized the importance in focusing on process management and quality of cervical cancer services, stating, “it is not just about the machinery”. Dr Suwit built on this point explaining how important health worker incentives were in extend the reach of screening services to rural communities.
Sire Trevor Hassel called for more indignation in the room emphasizing the needless but enormous suffering and pain of women across the Caribbean due to cervical cancer – emphasizing that it is the social justice perspective that really needs to be driving the elimination ambition. “The achievement of elimination of cervical cancer is a political decision”, said Hassel. UNFPA point to cervical cancer elimination as a best buy in global health, expressing the readiness of the adolescent health and reproductive health community to work with others. “We need local action, supported by a common plan of action coordinated globally, for optimal impact” said Laura Marks driven by the right of every adolescent and every woman to access to these important services.
Dr Tedros closed by recognizing the building momentum around the ambition to eliminate cervical cancer, but underscored “we have all the tools to consign cervical cancer to the history books – it is simply not acceptable that women are continuing to die from this avoidable cancer, failure is not an option”.