Wednesday, 21 August 2013

End cervical cancer now

EFFORTS are under way, through an electronic petition, to garner half a million signatures from throughout the Caribbean, which will be used to encourage the political directorate to support programmes to help end cervical cancer.

Word of this came last Friday, from Chairman of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC), Professor Trevor Hassell, moments after Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of Barbados, Dr. John Holder, affixed his name to the document, which has so far attracted 4 000 signatures. The signing took place at the close of the morning session of Day Five of the Anglican Church Province of the West Indies’ Congress 2013.

Professor Hassell explained to the media that cervical cancer is a major problem in Latin America and the Caribbean, with over 30 000 women dying in these regions every year, which he said is unfortunate, as 95 per cent of such deaths can be prevented.

It is for this reason, he said, that the HCC, together with the cancer societies and foundations throughout the Caribbean, launched the petition, which will seek to encourage Heads of Government within the region to put programmes in place to enhance screening for cervical cancer, as well as programmes to prevent, control and better manage the disease.

“This is the first petition of its kind undertaken in this form around health in the Caribbean, and it has thus far obtained nearly 4 000 persons who signed in support of it, and I would like to use this opportunity to encourage everyone to sign the petition,” he said.

The professor added, “The Archbishop His Grace, this morning, signed as the leader of the Anglican Church in the Caribbean, as a clear and significant statement of his personal commitment, and the commitment of the Anglican Church in the Caribbean, towards meeting this objective of better prevention, control and treatment of cervical cancer, using the electronic petition as a vehicle or tool for doing so.”

He said that the petition was started just over a month ago, and while to date they have not been promoting it in a significant way, the intention is to intensify their efforts over the next six to nine months to get the 500 000 signatures.

“We might not achieve this objective, because it is very ambitious, but we are an ambitious organisation, and in any event, whatever is the ultimate number, we will then present that at a Heads of Government of CARICOM meeting or similar such meeting, trying in doing so to get some level of commitment in response to the petition,” he said.

He made the point as he noted that there are a variety of reasons why the death toll is so high and they differ from one Caribbean country to another. The HCC Chairman said that they include inadequate pap smears and the absence of HPV vaccine programmes, and a lack of knowledge among at-risk populations about the importance of pap smears.

With that in mind, he also lamented that due to a lack of adequate resources throughout the region, there has been poor reporting on the results of pap smears.

To that end, he is urging persons to log on to to sign the petition, and do their part to ensure that Caribbean women have increased access to affordable cervical cancer screening.

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