Cancer aid for poor women

Hope is at hand for South African women who cannot afford a new vaccine aimed at combating cervical cancer. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) has plans to get the vaccine to them.

Hope is at hand for South African women who cannot afford a new vaccine aimed at combating cervical cancer. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI Alliance) has plans to get the vaccine to them.

The alliance, a group of the world's top health agencies, governments and private partners, said the vaccine could dramatically increase immunisation against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is the major cause of cervical cancer.

Worldwide, there are two million to three million cases of this cancer, with 500000 new cases and 250000 deaths recorded each year.

"That's an Asian tsunami every year," said world expert on this cancer Lynette Denny, a professor at the University of Cape Town.

It is the most common cancer among women in the developing world, where 80percent of new cases and deaths occur. Yet it is preventable with a simple test.

Denny described it as a disease of "inequity of access to health care", because most women could be saved if it is diagnosed early. It can be prevented if diagnosed early by means of a pap smear. But the HPV vaccine can prevent the infection in the first place.

In South Africa, screening for this cancer in public health is not adequate. Women only get a free pap smear every 10 years, from age 30. It is estimated that there is a backlog of pap smears of five million and that women face a one in 26 lifetime risk of developing it. - health-e-news service

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