African First Ladies lead the way for cervical cancer awareness
African first ladies have vowed to raise awareness on cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of death among women on the continent.
Taking the lead, Tobeka Madiba-Zuma, one of South Africa’s first ladies appealed to everyone attending the 3rd Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa conference in Cape Town to join her in paying tribute to millions of women who lost their lives to the illness.
‘A healthy nation consist of a healthy working class and women are very important part our economy’, she said.
Madiba-Zuma said she hoped to use her position to advocate for more attention to be paid to breast and cervical cancer.
The focus of this year’s conference was on improving cervical cancer prevention through vaccination, pre-cancer screening and treatment.
Delivering the keynote address at the conference Dr Molefi Sefularo, Deputy Minister of Health revealed that the National Department of Health was considering making available two cervical cancer vaccines in the public sector.
‘We still need to do a cost-benefit analysis and decide which of the two vaccines would be more beneficial to the country,’ he added.
Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health said his department hopes to introduce education to learners about human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. He stressed the department’s commitment to acquiring necessary resources for making the cervical cancer vaccine available.
‘We acknowledge that we need to strengthen our cancer control program,’ said Motsoaledi.
He said the department planned to conduct a thorough review of the National Cancer Control Programme before the end of this year.
Motsoaledi said the cancer guidelines marked the foundation for the country’s cervical cancer screening programme. However Motsoaledi sited implementation as the greatest challenge.
He said that the health department established a Cervical Cancer task team comprising of academics, researchers expert clinicians as well as National Health Laboratory Services personnel to provide the Department with guidance.
He revealed that misconceptions regarding cervical cancer which existed especially among rural residents were some of the challenges facing government in eradicating cervical cancer.
Madiba-Zuma highlighted the need to scale up the accessibility of pap smears in rural areas.
Founder and Executive Director of the Princess Nikky Breast Cancer Foundation Princess Nikky Onyeri welcomed support from the South African government.
‘Only through partnerships can we ensure wide availability of the vaccines. It is in our power to save countless lives,’ she said.
She took up the fight against cancer after being misdiagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. Since then she has taken it upon herself to engage communities and leaders about cervical and breast cancer.