In the photo featured above, children in Lesotho pose with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatrics Aids Foundation sign. The Foundation is currently starting a new initiative to provide cervical cancer screening and treatment to women seeking regular treatment for HIV (www.pedaids.com, 2016).
In the photo above, Dr. Akintade, the director of reproductive health for EGPAF, explains the life-saving screening that will be implemented during health visits (Mason, 2016).
Cervical cancer and HIV are two major health issues in Lesotho. Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Lesotho is living with HIV. Many cases of cervical cancer are caused by a common sexually transmitted disease, HPV. Women who are HIV positive are much more likely to get cervical cancer since their immune function is diminished. Cervical cancer can be detected early on, and if detected, has the potential to save lives.
This article discusses many barriers that women in Lesotho face – there is a shortage of physicians (i.e. due to “brain drain”), many do not have the finances to pay for medical care, especially for an advanced procedure such as a hysterectomy (often the treatment in more advanced stages of cervical cancer), and traveling to clinics can be very difficult due to the terrain and the time it takes to get to the clinic.
Realizing what a major health issue cervical cancer is for women, EGPAF implemented a workable plan addressing many of these barriers. Women who come for their HIV care (especially those who are in a program to prevent transmission to their children) are now being screened and treated for early stages of cervical cancer.
Coming from a public health background, this article was extremely exciting for me to read. In my time in Ghana, I worked in a hospital dedicated to maternal/child health. Transportation is not necessarily something that’s easy to do. It can be very difficult for women to come for regular visits, like we would here in the US. Creating a one-stop shop where women can get screened in addition to their HIV care, is crucial. One other thing that this article mentions is the use of healthcare aids to perform the screening. This is also a very positive strategy, as physicians are few and far between. They must handle the more complicated work (i.e. surgeries), but healthcare aids can handle the screening. This makes me feel positively that this program could be scaled to other clinics across Lesotho. A total of 190 (out of over 2000) were identified and treated – 190 lives saved from a very workable solution.
To learn more about EGPAF program, read this.
Blog post citations:
Mason, Heather. February 8, 2016. EGPAF fights the double burden of HIV and Cervical Cancer in Lesotho. Retrieved from: http://www.pedaids.org/stories/entry/egpaf-fights-the-double-burden-of-hiv-and-cervical-cancer-in-lesotho
Angel, Alex. March 4, 2015. Cervical cancer is no longer a death sentence for women in Lesotho. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.pedaids.org/blog/entry/cervical-cancer-senkatana-centre-lesotho-usaid