USAID helps fight cervical cancer

12 August 2010

In commemoration of Women’s Month, the United States Agency for International Development has donated more than R5-million worth of medical and surgical equipment to KwaZulu-Natal, enabling the province to screen and treat up to one-million women for cervical cancer over the next two years.

US consul general Jill Derderian announced the USAID/US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) contribution at the Lower Umfolozi Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal’s Uthungulu district, where provincial health minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo and about 300 community members were in attendance.

Early diagnosis vital

Derderian said her mother had twice survived cancer following early diagnosis. The machines, speculums and examination lights will enable testing for cervical cancer at nearly 300 hospitals in all 11 KwaZulu-Natal districts.

In a statement this week, USAID says the donation is in support of the province’s Phila Ma (Be healthy, mother) programme that aims to accelerate the screening and treatment of cervical cancer and reduce the rate of cervical cancer mortality by 60% to 80%.

In South Africa, cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women. Four in ten women in KwaZulu-Natal are over the age of 30, putting them at a higher risk of cervical cancer. Research also shows that HIV accelerates cervical cancer in women with weak immune systems.

The provincial health department strategy detailed major gaps in cervical screening and treatment, identifying the need for infrastructure equipment.

“The fact is that cervical cancer is beatable,” said Dhlomo.

Combating a silent killer

USAID appointed BroadReach Healthcare to procure the cervical cancer equipment in South Africa so testing may commence immediately. The equipment includes 10 colposcopy machines, 300 autoclave machines, 10 000 disposable vaginal speculums and Halogen examination lights.

“Through partnerships with BroadReach Healthcare and USAID, we expect that many women and girls will be educated about cervical screening and have access to this service at their nearest clinic,” said Dhlomo.

Dhlomo urged the women of KwaZulu-Natal to go to clinics for pap smears at the earliest, explaining that they would help in combating a silent killer that affected thousands of women every year.

“Cervical cancer kills more South African women than any other cancer each year, accounting for 34% of all cancer deaths in women – yet it can be prevented and treated if detected early enough,” said BroadReach Healthcare chairman Dr Ernest Darkoh.

“It is estimated that cervical cancer affects 30 out of every 100 000 South African women each year, compared to a global average of 16 women per 100 000.”

SAinfo reporter

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