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Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon's Commitment to Defeating Cervical Cancer

January marks Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remember the thousands of women who have battled cervical cancer and to re-dedicate our collective efforts to ending preventable deaths from the disease.

Article by by Temi Omilabu January 16, 2018 //   3 minute read
A young Zambian girl receives a dose of the HPV vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer.

More than 90% of cervical cancer cases occur in low and middle-income countries. This disparity exists for many reasons, from lack of resources to insufficient technical training. Still, no woman should die from a preventable disease because she cannot access care. When considering the link between HIV and cervical cancer, the disparity becomes even more apparent. Since HIV significantly weakens the immune system, women living with HIV are four to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer. Women survive HIV only to succumb to cervical cancer. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon believes vaccination, screening, treatment, and policy development can reverse the course of cervical cancer in low and middle-income countries. Our results confirm our approach works.


Since HPV types 16 and 18 cause almost 70% of cervical cancer cases, one of PRRR’s main goals is to vaccinate girls against these strains of the virus. HPV is sexually transmitted, so our model aims to vaccinate girls between the ages of 9 and 13, likely before they have experienced their sexual debut. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. Research shows both Gardasil and Cervarix prevent close to 100% of HPV16 and 18 strains. With the support of PRRR and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, 147,497 girls have completed their HPV vaccination in Botswana, Zambia, and Ethiopia, nearly eliminating their cervical cancer risk for life.

Screening and Treatment

Research shows one-time screenings in low-income countries could prevent almost half of cervical cancer deaths. PRRR programs in Botswana, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia have cumulatively screened 465,243 women for cervical cancer, 379,214 of them for the first time. And, by including 110,763 HIV-positive women in our screenings, we help to address the HIV-cervical cancer link.

Additionally, PRRR provides effective, low-cost treatments for women with cervical pre-cancer. PRRR and its partners have treated 29,827 women to date with cryotherapy and the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), and PRRR has referred 7,085 women for additional treatment. PRRR continues to explore screening and treatment options to impact more women.

Policy Development and Sustainability

PRRR incorporates countries’ unique resources to enhance programmatic sustainability, empowering them to lead and design their cervical cancer prevention and care programs. PRRR collaborates with the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and partner countries to transition from PRRR support to in-country management. Recently, the Tanzanian government funded 100 cryotherapy and nine LEEP machines, with plans to scale up screening to 100 new health facilities.

PRRR coordinates public-private partnerships to combat cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. Leveraging existing programs and resources saves lives. Accelerating vaccination, facilitating increased access to screening, scaling up treatment options, and prioritizing policy development and sustainability can put an end to preventable cervical cancer deaths.