Wave of new commitments marks historic step towards the elimination of cervical cancer.

New country, policy and program commitments, plus nearly US$600 million in new funding, at first-ever global forum offer a chance to save hundreds of thousands of lives by 2030.

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, 06 March 2024 -/African Media Agency(AMA)/- Governments, donors, multilateral institutions, and partners today announced major new policy, programmatic and financial commitments, including nearly US$600 million in new funding, to eliminate cervical cancer. If these ambitions to expand vaccine coverage and strengthen screening and treatment programs are fully realized, the world could eliminate a cancer for the first time.

These commitments were made at the first-ever Global Cervical Cancer Elimination Forum: Advancing the Call to Action in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, to catalyze national and global momentum to end this preventable disease. 

Every two minutes, a woman dies from cervical cancer, although the knowledge and the tools to prevent and even eliminate this disease already exist. Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) — the leading cause of cervical cancer — can prevent the vast majority of cases and, combined with screening and treatment, provides a path to elimination. 

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, and continues to disproportionately impact women and their families in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In an important shift, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s 2022 global recommendation for one-dose HPV vaccine schedules significantly reduced barriers to scaling up vaccination programs. It was reinforced by a similar recommendation in the Americas Region in 2023. The WHO’s Regional Office for Africa has just followed suit with its own recommendation for countries in the region to adopt the single-dose vaccination schedule. To date, 37 countries have reported switching or an intent to switch to a one-dose regimen.

The commitments announced at the forum mark a watershed moment to accelerate progress on a promise made in 2020, when 194 countries adopted WHO’s global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer.

“We have the knowledge and the tools to make cervical cancer history, but vaccination, screening and treatment programmes are still not reaching the scale required,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This first global forum is an important opportunity for governments and partners to invest in the global elimination strategy and addressing the inequities that deny women and girls’ access to the life-saving tools they need.” 

In addition to a re-commitment by Indonesia to its National Action Plan 2023, other country commitments include:


  • Democratic Republic of Congo
     commits to start introducing the HPV vaccine as early as possible using the WHO-recommended single-dose schedule. It also commits to do everything to get, as early as possible, to the cervical cancer elimination strategy immunization’s coverage target for girls aged 9 to 14 years. 
  • Ethiopia commits to implement a robust vaccine delivery strategy across the country, targeting at least 95% coverage in 2024 for all 14-year old girls, regardless of their socioeconomic status, whether in school or out of school. The country also commits to screen 1 million eligible women every year for cervical cancer and to treat 90% of those screened, who present with positive precancerous lesions. Further, HPV single dose has been approved to be introduced this year and scaled up as part of the country’s Expanded Program on Immunization plans.
  • Nigeria launched its HPV vaccine national program this year, adopting the single-dose schedule for girls 9 to 14 years old, and now commits to achieving at least 80% vaccine coverage of girls. They are committed to continuing to increase coverage of the HPV vaccine through a robust delivery strategy that will meet the girls where they are. For girls who are in school, they will concentrate on school-based delivery; for girls that are not in school, they will commit to implementing outreach activities at key moments in the year, with the target of at least 80% coverage of girls targeted by 2026. 

The nearly US$600 million in new funding includes US$180 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US$10 million from UNICEF, and US$400 million from the World Bank. A full list and description of commitments can be found here and will be updated throughout the forum. 

There are many challenges on the path to elimination. Due to supply constraints, delivery challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic, just one in five eligible adolescent girls were vaccinated in 2022. And while there are cost-effective and evidence-based tools for screening and treatment, fewer than 5% of women in many LMICs are ever screened for cervical cancer. Health system constraints, costs, logistical issues, and lack of political will are obstacles to implementing comprehensive programs for cervical cancer prevention and treatment.

These barriers have led to deep inequity: of the estimated 348,000 cervical cancer deaths in 2022, over 90% took place in LMICs. With governments and partners recommitting urgently to the global agenda, it is possible to reverse the tide and prevent annual deaths from rising to 410,000 by 2030, as currently estimated.  

“For the Government of Colombia, in its commitment to guaranteeing the rights of women in their diversities, it is imperative to advance in the elimination of cervical cancer; a disease that affects millions of girls and women. Therefore, we are pleased to host the first Global Forum for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. This is an opportunity that will allow the country, and the world, to exchange experiences and knowledge that will contribute to eliminating barriers to care, increasing vaccination against HPV and facilitating capacity development so that countries and partners continue adding actions for elimination of cervical cancer.”

For the Spanish government, “Cervical cancer is a public health problem for which there are already prevention, detection, and treatment tools,” as stated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union, and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, who is convinced that “with political will, we can address it. We are confident that, from this first forum, commitments and support will emerge from countries, international organizations, global initiatives, philanthropic entities, and civil society to boost government action and commitment to achieving the goals of the WHO strategy. In coherence with its feminist foreign and cooperation policy, Spain is ready to undertake significant commitments to achieve this.”

This milestone forum is co-sponsored by the Governments of Colombia and Spain in partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); World Health Organization (WHO); UNICEF; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Unitaid; the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and the World Bank. 

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Gates Foundation.

MEDIA RESOURCES: 

● WHO estimates on HPV vaccination data 

● WHO/ International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cervical cancer fact sheet 

● WHO visualization tools for cancer data 

QUOTES

Dr. Chris Elias, President, Global Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

“HPV vaccines are a miracle of modern medicine, yet too many girls in low- and middle-income countries do not have access to them. There is no reason why women should die from cervical cancer when a vaccine to prevent it exists. With the addition of WHO’s guidance for a one-dose HPV vaccine schedule, cervical cancer elimination is within reach. Now is the time for governments and partners around the world to increase HPV vaccine access and protect future generations from cervical cancer.”

Aurélia Nguyen, Chief Programme Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance:

“The HPV vaccine is one of the most impactful vaccines on the planet and has already helped save thousands of lives. More girls urgently deserve the same protection, which is why in partnership with countries, Gavi has set an ambitious goal to help vaccinate 86 million adolescent girls by 2025. With bold commitment and decisive action, we can look forward to a future where cervical cancer has been eliminated for good.”

Juan Pablo Uribe, Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents (GFF) and Global Director for Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank:

“The World Bank and the GFF are doubling down efforts for cervical cancer elimination, with at least US$400 million for HPV-related investments over the next three years. Every woman and every girl should have access to cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment as part of regular health care services. Much more work is ahead of all of us with a shared goal: eliminate cervical cancer. We need to build on today’s momentum and support countries‘ leadership to accelerate progress.”

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, Director, Pan American Health Organization: 

“We have the urgent need to scale up access and coverage for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, screening and treatment. I express PAHO’s profound commitment to elevate the political will and prioritize cervical cancer elimination in the public health agenda of countries in the Americas.  

“This is part of PAHO’s Disease Elimination Initiative, which aims to eliminate as many as 30 communicable diseases and related conditions, including cervical cancer, in the Americas by 2030. Through PAHO’s Regional Revolving Funds, high quality HPV vaccines, HPV diagnostic tests and ablative pre-cancer treatment devices are available at one price for all our Member States regardless of purchase size.”

Helga Fogstad, Director of Health, UNICEF:

“For the first time, the end of an entire category of cancer is in sight. With the necessary tools at our disposal, commitment and political will are the next critical steps to a future free of cervical cancer for generations to come. UNICEF is dedicated to the shared global target of protecting the lives of 86 million girls by next year and pledges US $10 million to support 21 countries in vaccinating girls against HPV, in addition to our existing commitments to this important and urgent cause. The impact of these new funds will be amplified as a result of UNICEF’s multi-sectoral approach making the most of our school and community platforms and partnerships with girls’ and women’s rights organizations to ensure success in demand generation.”

Marisol Touraine, Executive Board Chair, Unitaid:

“We cannot accept that women die from cervical cancer, when we know how to prevent and treat this disease. At this pivotal moment, we must ensure the efficient tools we have are both affordable and available to every woman and girl in need. Our projects at Unitaid have dramatically reduced the cost of HPV screening and the price of lifesaving thermal ablation devices. We are launching another wave of investments that will focus on bringing cervical cancer screening outside of healthcare facilities and into communities. Together with our partners, we will continue to lay the groundwork for a future where all women have equitable access to the care they deserve, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.”

Dr. Atul Gawande, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, United States Agency for International Development:

“With the powerful shield of the HPV vaccine, regular screening, and early treatment, we can safeguard a generation from the devastating effects of cervical cancer. Every shot is a bold stride towards a future where cervical cancer is eliminated. USAID remains a steadfast partner to governments, communities, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for ensuring access to this life-saving intervention. Through PEPFAR’s Go Further partnership, USAID will also combat cervical cancer by extending screening and treatment options to the most vulnerable communities where people are at higher risk for acquiring HIV and HPV. Together, we’re forging a path towards a future where cervical cancer is no longer a threat to the health and wellbeing of women worldwide.” 

MEDIA CONTACTS

Host Partners Media Contact Phone/WhatsApp Email
Government of Colombia Ana María Montoya Zorro +57 3163096098 anamaria.montoya@cancilleria.gov.co
Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gema Castillo Sahuquillo +34 663947141 gema.castillo@maec.es
Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) Enric-Sol Brines i Gómez (+34) 91 583 85 56 | (+34) 600 547 700 enric-sol.brines@aecid.es
Pan American Health Organization Luciana Viegas
Sebastián Oliel
Ashley Baldwin
Greace Vanegas (Colombia specific)
+ 1 202 981-8455
+ 1 202 316-5679
+ 1 202 340-4025
+57 315 225 33 58
mediateam@paho.org
vanegasgre@paho.org
World Health Organization Amna Smailbegovic +41 76 233 98 15 smailbegovica@who.int
mediainquiries@who.int
UNICEF Sara AlHattab +1 917 957 6536 salhattab@unicef.org
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Media Team +1 206 709 3400 media@gatesfoundation.org
Unitaid Herve Verhoosel +33 62 259 73 54 verhooselh@unitaid.who.int
Global Financing Facility Sheryl Silverman +1 410 868 4664 ssilverman@worldbankgroup.org
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Cirũ Kariũki +41 79 913 94 41 ckariuki@gavi.org ,media@gavi.org
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Press Relations press@usaid.gov
World Bank Group Alexandra Humme ahumme@worldbank.org

The post Wave of new commitments marks historic step towards the elimination of cervical cancer. appeared first on African Media Agency.

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