Mrs Gladys Brew, Safe Motherhood Programme Manager, at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), says Ghana needs to consider making Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination a public sector programme.
That, she said, would address issues of persistent infection with high -risk HPV types among women, a major risk factor for cervical cancer.
Mrs Gladys was speaking at an event held in Accra by the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) to mark International Women’s Day .
It was on the theme: “Empowering Women in Ghana to take control of their lives through vaccination against Cervical Cancer”.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Many people with HPV don’t develop any symptoms but can still infect others through sexual contact. Symptoms may include warts on the genitals or surrounding skin.
She said the high cervical cancer rates in lower income countries could be explained by a lack of access to effective screening in public healthcare settings.
The Safe Motherhood Coordinator said the non-existent or inadequate screening and limited access to the standard treatment options that were often unaffordable had led to majority of cases being detected in the advanced stages.
“The integration of public education on cervical cancer prevention, HPV vaccination and screening programmes in both medical and public health services is critical in the country’s effort to reduce the burden of cervical cancer,” she said.
She said creating awareness on cervical cancer was one of the most important activities that could bring light and knowledge to countless families and empower women to take control of their sexual and reproductive lives.
Mrs Brew said high parity, long-term use of oral contraceptive pills, tobacco consumption, co-infection with other sexually transmitted agents , lifestyle factors like multiple sexual partners were most likely to expose women to cervical cancer infections.
She said according to the cytojournal online publication on March 2022, an article on “Cancer Cervix: Epidemiology and disease burden”, showed that cervical cancer remained a major public health problem ranking as the fourth most common cause of cancer incidence and mortality in women worldwide.
Mrs Bernice Sam, a Gender Activist, who was also speaking at the programme urged women to own their reproductive health rights and get vaccinated against HPV.
She said screening and early detection of the disease was key to reducing cervical cancer related deaths among women.
Mrs Perpetual Ofori, President of the GRNMA, also urged nurses and midwives to make cervical cancer screening and vaccination a priority.
She encouraged them to set aside some funds to enable them to go through the HPV vaccination and cervical cancer treatment.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.
It can be prevented by PAP smear screening and an HPV vaccine.