The threat of cervical cancer on Zambian women has reached alarming levels and need urgent and concerted efforts to ensure that awareness, testing and treatment of the disease becomes top priority on government and its cooperating partners agenda.
Zambia has the second highest cervical cancer incidence in the world, despite being one of the few countries in Africa with a Cancer disease hospital. Guinea takes top spot.
For hundreds of women at risk and those with the disease, the recent visit to Zambia by former US president George W. Bush put into the spotlight the importance of creating cervical cancer screening opportunities.
Bush was in Zambia to reinforce the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign on HIV and cancer which he launched in December 2011.
The campaign is aimed at increasing the availability of cervical cancer screening, treatment and breast care education.
While in the country, Bush spent four days putting his hands to work, renovating a clinic in Kabwe used for cancer screening and emphasizing the message “If women could be saved from HIV/AIDS and yet die from cancer, then life has not been saved.”
He also held talks with President Michael Sata at state house and met with first lady Dr Christine Kaseba for the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon campaign at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), Zambia’s only referral hospital.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Programme in Zambia (CCPPIZ) co-director, Dr Mulindi Mwanahamuntu had this to say about Bush’s visit to Zambia; “The women were saved from dying due to AIDS by George W Bush's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative which brought ARVs to public health hospitals beginning from the mid 2000s. Sadly, a lot of these women whose lives were being prolonged by costly ARVs were once again beginning to die from cervical cancer which appears to be more serious in women with immunity problems.
For PEPFAR to allow us in Zambia to use some of the ARV budget to screen women and stop deaths from cervical cancer means that an entire loop is getting sealed. I think Bush must have been a happy man to see first hand how Zambia has created health promoting systems initiated by his kindness and that of the American people.”
Since the start of the CCPPIZ programme in 2005, more than 81, 000 women have been screened for cervical cancer. The organisation intends to embark on a vaccination programme on young women between the ages eight and 12 who are not yet sexually active.