Zim Still Among High Cervical Cancer Burden Countries In Africa

ZIMBABWE is still in the top five cervical cancer high burden countries on the continent, despite numerous efforts by the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC) and development partners to address the scourge, a United Nations Aids (UNAIDS) report has gathered.

By Michael Gwarisa

According to the 2021 Global AIDS Update report, majority of the cervical cancer cases were linked to HIV.

An estimated 85% of women with cervical cancer live in sub-Saharan Africa, where the proportion of women living with HIV among people with cervical cancer exceeded 40% in nine countries, underscoring the link between HIV and cervical cancer burden in the region. Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe accounted for about half of all women living with HIV who developed cervical cancer in 2018,” said the report.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women globally with more than 600 000 new cases estimated in 2020. According to UNAIDS, cervical cancer is an AIDS- defining illness and is the most common cancer among women living with HIV.

“It is often caused by infection with high-risk sub-types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a common but preventable infection that women with compromised immune systems struggle to clear. HPV infection may also increase the risk of HIV transmission.

“Women living with HIV are at high risk of persistent HPV infection: they have a
sixfold higher risk of developing invasive cervical cancer, which develops twice 
as fast for women with untreated HIV infection, and they are more likely than 
women without HIV to die of cervical cancer, even when receiving antiretroviral 
therapy for HIV.”

The Global AIDS Strategy 2021–2026 includes population-specific targets to be reached by 2025. These targets include 90% of women living with HIV have access to integrated or linked services for HIV treatment and cervical cancer.  90% of school-aged young girls (aged 9 to 14 years) in priority countries have access to HPV vaccination.  90% of adolescent girls and young women (aged 15 to 24 years) have access to sexual and reproductive health services that integrate HIV services and include HPV, cervical cancer and STI screening and treatment, among other services.

“Ensuring access to the primary and secondary prevention and treatment of cervical cancer among women living with, affected by and at risk of HIV is critical to the achievement of the global 90–70–90 targets within the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer as a Public Health Problem, which was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2020.”

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