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Two-Minute Take: World Cancer Day

February 4 is World Cancer Day, an international day to raise awareness about cancer and encourage individual and collective action. At the Bush Institute, we are focused on ensuring that women who are living with HIV do not succumb to cervical cancer.

Article by Crystal Cazier February 1, 2019 //   3 minute read

What is World Cancer Day? 

February 4 each year is World Cancer Day, an international day to raise awareness about cancer and encourage individual and collective action. This year’s theme is I am and I will. At the Bush Institute, we are focused on ensuring that women who are living with HIV do not succumb to cervical cancer, and we will continue to work with PEPFAR and UNAIDS through the Partnership to End AIDS and Cervical Cancer to ensure women living with HIV are prioritized for cervical cancer control services. 

Why does the Bush Institute focus on Cervical Cancer? 

President Bush launched the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 to respond to the global AIDS crisis. Where AIDS was once a death sentence, people are now able to live healthy lives thanks to investments from PEPFAR, The Global Fund, national governments, and others. In sub-Saharan Africa, 14.5 million women are living with HIV. But women with HIV have compromised immune systems that make them susceptible to other life-threatening diseases. Women living with HIV are up to five times more likely to develop cervical cancer, even though it is preventable with the HPV vaccine and easily treatable if detected early. As President Bush says, “It’s not acceptable to save a woman’s life from HIV/AIDS and watch her die from cervical cancer.” 

So what do we do about it? 

The Partnership to End AIDS and Cervical Cancer builds on the PEPFAR platform to ensure women living with HIV have early and easy access to cervical cancer screening and treatment, if needed. By incorporating cervical cancer care into clinics where women are already accessing HIV services, we are better able to reach the women who have the highest risk for cervical cancer. To launch this work, the partnership has committed $30 million to eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa where there is high prevalence of HIV combined with high rates of cervical cancer.  

The Bush Institute has long focused on working with country partners to ensure national cervical cancer control programs are planned, implemented, and resourced to respond to the need in their country. One way we have done this is by working with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and CDC Foundation to develop a toolkit that provides technical support to countries for collecting and using data to improve and scale cervical cancer programs. Today, on World Cancer Day, we are proud that the toolkit has been made available as an open resource online.