CERVICAL cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Namibia, has claimed the lives of 572 women across the country from 2008 to 2018.
Between March and December 2019, the Ministry of Health and Social Services through the Visual Inspection of the Cervix with Acetic Acid (VIA) technique, has screened 11 000 women of which 8 000 were HIV positive.
The medical officer for cervical cancer programme at the Oshakati intermediate hospital, Tafara Chaibva, said that Oshana recorded the highest screens of 1 271 of which 818 was done at Oshakati hospital while 453 at Ondangwa Health facility.
Chaibva stated that in Oshana a total of 126 out of the screened woman were diagnosed with cancer.
The director of special programmes in the ministry of health Anne-Marie Nitschke said that of the women who were screened, one in ten needed treatment to remove pre-cancerous cells, while 90 percent received treatment on the spot.
“HIV positive women are at a high risk of developing and dying from cervical cancer, as the virus is less likely to be cleared by the body,” said Nitschke.
She explained that a positive woman is 5-6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer than HIV negative woman. Even if the positive woman in on anti-retroviral treatment (ART) they are still at higher risk compared to HIV-negative women.
Currently VIA is accessible at 37 health facilities in 10 regions and is expected to be rolled out to 53 other facilities by September 2020.
The screening, which is aimed at detecting and treating cervical cancer at an early age, is done in collaboration with the government of the United States of America, through its Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (Pepfar).
As the world commemorates cervical cancer month in January, USA Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson encouraged women to get screened.
Johnson called on all women, particularly women who are HIV positive and at the highest risk of cervical cancer, to set a date to go for screening and to pass on this message to female family members and friends.
“We must look out for each other and encourage each other to take care of our health,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, 1 000 HIV-positive Namibian women per month are receiving screening for cervical cancer through VIA.