In 2020, UN Member States managed to join together in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and formally adopt WHO’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer in August.
WHO organised a highly creative, virtual celebratory event for the launch of the Global Strategy on 17th November. Particularly welcome was the inclusion of cervical cancer patient voices throughout the event, which was meant to encourage more survivors to come forward and share their stories. It demonstrated to decision-makers responsible for implementing the Global Strategy in their countries how important it is to have cancer survivors represented in the process.
Indeed, the ribbon of illuminated buildings in the colour teal for cervical cancer and the participation of so many regions in the virtual launch sent a strong signal as to the significance of the Global Strategy for communities around the world.
An event organised by the Pan American Health Organization, for example, included a panel of civil society representatives, among which were UICC members, who shared their commitments as professional associations and civil society groups. The Ministry of Health and Social Assistance of Guatemala also expressed its commitment to the Global Strategy.
For its part, UICC committed to making every 17th November the start of the cervical cancer elimination calendar and suggested making it an international awareness day. UICC also committed to establishing a ten-step journey to achieving the 2030 targets.
In the same week WHO launched the Global Strategy, the Commonwealth Secretariat held two events focusing on cervical cancer during the London Global Cancer Week (15-20 November). UICC supported the events and will continue this partnership in 2021 as the campaign to stop cervical cancer in the Commonwealth is taken to Heads of Governments.
Also during the London Global Cancer Week, the Government of Guyana issued a statement on working towards the reduction and possible elimination of cervical cancer by 2030.
UNAIDS has been driving united action on cervical cancer and presented at a meeting held 15th-18th December a thematic segment on “Cervical Cancer and HIV: addressing linkages and common inequalities to save women’s lives.” The first-ever estimates on the global burden of cervical cancer associated with HIV were published last month in The Lancet.
While 2020 was about adopting and launching the Global Strategy, 2021 is about its implementation. WHO issued this month a new guide in support of pillars 2 and 3 of the Global Strategy: Introducing and scaling up testing for human papillomavirus as part of a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of cervical cancer (A step-by-step guide).
UN Member States also agreed for 2021 to a more integrated approach to cervical cancer elimination with Primary Health Care (PHC), Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). Such an integrated approach is aimed at strengthening national health systems responses for cervical cancer prevention and control, and to ensure that financial protections for the poorest are in place.
A new UICC Virtual Dialogue series in partnership with Jhpiego will take this approach into consideration, addressing the need for health convergence. The first Virtual Dialogue will take place on 27th January and will look at the gaps for true acceleration towards the 2030 goals of the Global Strategy.
Also, as part of a Unitaid-funded consortium led by Expertise France, UICC is helping to implement the Global Strategy through the project SUCCESS, Scale Up Cervical Cancer Elimination with Secondary prevention Strategy. The objective is to prevent the development of cervical cancer in women infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) who present pre-cancerous lesions in early screenings, and to provide treatment for these lesions. The SUCCESS project currently focuses on four target countries: Guatemala, Philippines, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.