Breaking news at WD2019, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a major announcement that the government of Canada committed to increasing its annual funding for international sexual and reproductive health rights and maternal, newborn, and child health, to $1.4 billion annually, as of 2023.
British Colombia Women’s Health Foundation (BCWHF), a UICC member, received a 10 Million Canadian dollar investment as part of that commitment by the Federal government. This together with a further 10 Million Canadian dollars in matching funding was announced on the sidelines of Women Deliver. This investment will be used for research to eliminate cervical cancer with a particular focus on information and improving access for indigenous women, who are at higher risk due to access barriers, lack of awareness, and lack of culturally-safe and client-centred screening programs.
“We know too many cervical cancers are still diagnosed at the last stage of the disease, and our government is investing in research to change that. This funding will support Dr Gina Ogilvie and her team at the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women as they explore new strategies to better prevent and treat cervical cancer for all Canadians” - explained the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health.
British Columbia has been a world leader in cervical cancer prevention, screening, and treatment for decades. BCWHF has committed to creating comprehensive vaccine and screening education and awareness campaigns that will shape the pathway to elimination for Canada. More details here
UICC joined forces with the partners of TogetHER for Health in a pre-conference side event aimed at sharing a road map of cervical cancer events throughout the Women Deliver programme and discussion of advocacy messages with a focus on vaccination and screening. With the tag line “not without a cervix” Together for Health aimed to engage women’s advocates during the meeting.
The road map identified 9 dedicated cervical cancer sessions and 17 aligned sessions where advocates were encouraged to attend and raise cervical cancer elimination as a topic. While we still had the feeling that we were speaking somewhat in silos, there were more cervical cancer sessions in 2019 that in 2016. See here for a full report.
Ably chaired by Ambassador Sally Cowal (ACS and UICC board member) the panel made a powerful call for cervical cancer prevention to sit within a comprehensive, woman-centred approach to healthcare delivery.
UICC teamed up with WHO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, Global Fund and other partners on a side event “Every Country Can Eliminate Cervical Cancer”. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros opened with a short video, sharing the injustice that every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer - a preventable and treatable disease and called for a commitment to elimination in all countries which “will pay huge dividends not just in terms of lives saved, but also in terms of gender equality and the secured future of women and girls”.
Dr Nono Simelela spoke of WHO’s ambitious strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer and called upon those present to start to 'build a movement, pressing for the right to access critical vaccination, screening and treatment services'.
“Eliminating Cervical Cancer will not only solve one of the most pressing problems in sexual and reproductive health it also represents a “best-buy” in global health and contribute to achieving the global development targets for the health of women and girls and the reduction of non- communicable diseases”. - Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA agreed
Allison Ekberg Dvaladze University of Washington underscored the integration message speaking about the potential to harness well-established networks of breast cancer survivor advocacy groups and the value that investments in cervical cancer will bring to all cancer services, particularly from the perspective of referral, diagnosis and treatment services such as surgery and radiotherapy. Several audience members commended the earlier reference by Dr Tedros to the inclusion of cervical cancer services in universal health cancer packages but raised concerns of the investment needed in the world’s poorest countries with the greatest cervical cancer burden.
Dr Marijke Wijnoks, Chief of Staff of the Global Fund, highlighted that due to the co-infection of HIV and HPV as a driver for cervical cancer and opportunities for integration of services for both, Global Fund has since 2017, allowed countries to add cervical cancer programmes into their country plan and she encouraged planners to consider this when looking to reprogramming existing funds and future plans.
Dr Nono Simelela closed by acknowledging that funding of the initiative was the elephant in the room and needed to very much be part of our combined advocacy efforts.
Princess Dina Mired joined President and CEO of Women Deliver Katja Iversen and other global leaders during the closing ceremony of Women Deliver 2019 and received applause from the 8000 strong audience when she said 'I will use my power to fight cancer'.