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Cervical cancer is an inter-generational disease and last week Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) partners in Botswana took a big step forward in combating the disease among the younger generation. When Botswana’s Assistant Minister of Health Mr. Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri officially launched a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine demonstration project, he signified the government’s clear commitment to combatting cervical cancer in young girls.
Yet, to confront the disease we must work together with not only young girls, but also their sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers to ensure that we have a response to a disease that does not discriminate based on age.
In July 2012, President and Mrs. Bush led a delegation to Botswana to launch PRRR in the country, and in just nine months, the national program has emerged as a coordinated, government-led response to meet the needs of multiple generations. In Botswana, the government’s comprehensive cervical cancer control program has been augmented by a donation of GARDASIL HPV vaccine doses from PRRR corporate partner Merck, and resources and technical assistance from the World Bank, U.S. Government and other PRRR partners.
The “See and Treat” secondary prevention approach – visual inspection with acetic acid and cryotherapy – will be central to Botswana’s cervical cancer control efforts. Other plans include strengthening the health system to provide the HPV vaccines to girls, treating more women with advanced cases of the disease, and promoting education programs for a variety of audiences. Together, these pieces will form a concerted and bold effort to combat cervical cancer.
Last week’s step by the Botswana government adds a new and vital component to the fight against cervical cancer. There is no better way to celebrate this year’s World Health Day than to showcase significant progress in cervical cancer control in one of PRRR engagement countries—Botswana. We salute the commitment of the government and its partners and look forward to supporting these efforts as they spread nationwide.
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