This month, the GAVI Alliance announced its commitment to providing HPV vaccinations for 2 million girls in nine countries by 2015. This is a pivotal milestone in the efforts both to bring global attention to the issue of cervical cancer and to galvanize resources to scale up prevention efforts. HPV vaccines, along with screenings and treatment programs, have the potential to transform cervical cancer from an insurmountable death sentence to a challenge that can be overcome through commitment and collaboration.
The government of Mexico was the first to launch a pilot HPV vaccination project, which included the provision of HPV DNA tests and follow-up treatment. Since then, Panama, Malaysia, Peru and Argentina have followed suit. In 2006, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH, an international, nonprofit organization, began HPV vaccine pilot programs in India, Vietnam, Peru and Uganda, thereby paving the way for similar pilot projects across the developing world.
Government support has also had a dramatic effect in Rwanda, where partnerships have been leveraged to provide comprehensive cervical cancer care — combining vaccination, screening and improved treatment in a national effort designed to reach every Rwandan girl and woman. With support from Merck and QIAJEN, Rwanda has successfully vaccinated over 133,000 girls ages 12-15.
Partnership efforts, worldwide and across sectors, have the potential to bring us closer than ever before to a world free of cervical cancer-related deaths. No woman should die giving life; moreover, no woman should die living her life. The time is now to share lessons learned, success stories, and innovative ideas, and to work together as one to make this goal a reality.
Flickr photo by: the global health nonprofit PATH