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Women Living with HIV to Undergo Screening for cervical cancer

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As part of measures taken to ensure a healthy living for women, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at University of Ghana has launched I-CERV-GH Project, to screen women living with HIV of Cervical Cancer.

The I-CERV-GH Project is being implemented in collaboration with the National AIDS/STDs Control Program, the National TB Control Program and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Centre at Catholic Hospital in Battor.

The project, “Implementing Cervical Cancer Screening among women living with HIV in Ghana”, is funded by Expertise France L’Initiative.

About 90% of cervical cancer deaths worldwide are recorded from Africa and HIV patients are 6 times more likely to develop the disease.
This disturbing evidence has therefore, become necessary for the need to ensure that, there is an active screening program in Ghana for all women, especially those living with HIV.

In an interview, Prof. George Boateng Kyei, the Principal Investigator of |-CERV-GH and the Associate Professor of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology and Virology Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research at the University of Ghana disclose that, they are going to carry out a research to know what is the best way to make cervical cancer screening a routine for women living with HIV in Ghana.

“What informed the project is that, there is an urgent need to be able to screen women who have HIV for cervical cancer. The reason is that although, most women have risk for cervical cancer, women living with HIV, risk level is 6 to 10 times even if their virus is fully controlled and they are doing very well. So in a lot of places, women living with HIV are screen every year or two for cervical cancer”.

According to Prof. George Boateng Kyei, Ghana at the moment does not have national programme for screening for anybody likewise, for women living with HIV. “So, even if we don’t have a programme for screening for women living with HIV, we should at least have a programme for screening for people living with HIV since their risk is much much higher”.

The I-CERV-GH Project as a pilot, is to be implemented at clinics and hospitals including; Greater Accra Region: Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital Infectious Diseases Center Central Region: Ewim Polyclinic, Cape Coast Metropolitan Hospital and Elmina Polyclinic Eastern Region: Atua Government Hospital and St. Martin de Porres Hospital, Agomanya.

Nurses are to be trained from the clinics to do the screening, visual inspection of the cervix for treatment .

However, because the Cervical Cancer Prevention and Training Center at Battor has been training nurses for a while in the methods, they have been chosen as partners in the I-CERV-GH Project.

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is acquired through sexual contact. If the immune system does not get rid of the virus, it stays silent on the cervix until many years later, when it causes cancer in some people.

One way to prevent cervical cancer is to get young girls vaccinated before they become sexually active. Currently, vaccines are available, but Ghana is yet to begin a nationwide vaccination program. For those over 30 years of age, the cancer can still be prevented with regular screening. Previously, screening required taking a sample from the cervix (PAP smear) and having a specialist doctor (Pathologist) examine the sample to determine if there were cells that could lead to cancer. Due to the human resources and other logistics required, women in less-endowed countries have been left behind in screening.

The National AIDS/STD Control Program, a partner for the project is eager .

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