By Patricia Mashiri
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. It causes cervical cancer which is the leading cause of death among most Zimbabwean women.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care together with United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) have joined hands to fight the deadly disease by the introduction of HPV vaccine to protect women and girls.
David Parirenyatwa, the Minster of Health and Child Care called for concerted effort in the fight againt the spread of cervical cancer which is caused by HPV. He said the best way is to start preventing the young girls in the 9-14 years age group who are not yet sexually active.
“We believe that girls aged 9-14 years are not yet sexually active and we want to catch them young by giving them the HPV vaccines so that we prevent cervical cancer which is found in 35 out of every 1000 women.
“The target population for the HPV vaccine roll out campaign which is planned to run from 14-18 May 2018 targets 8000 girls. The coverage objective for the campaign is at least 95% which will be conducted through a school based programme whereby health care workers will vaccinate school girls with support from the school health coordinators,” he said.
The minister said the slogan of AVW which says ‘Vaccinated communities, Healthy communities’ aims at keeping immunisation high on the national agenda through advocacy and partnership. He pointed out that with early diagnosis, cervical cancer is manageable and curable.
HPV is a very common infectious agent which affects women and young girls. It has no visible signs or symptoms. This virus is transmitted during sexual activity and causes cancer.
The HPV is caused by smoking, too many sexual partners and early indulgence in sexual activities. This needs a special screening to detect it.
Nejmudin K Bilal, the UNICEF Chief of Health and Nutrition said they believe that the combination of government leadership, harmonised and aligned support from all stakeholders and involvement of private sector can accelerate Zimbabwe’s progress to scaling up of HPV vaccination.
“We believe that partnership will help us achieve a lot. UNICEF will help the national campaign by providing advocacy, social mobilisation, resource mobilisation and capacity building among others.”
UNICEF Statistics state that globally cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women. Every year 530 000 new cases are diagnosed with each year claiming 275 000 lives. Over 85% of the cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries and by 2050 cases will amount to 1million out of which 900 000 will be I developing countries.