The Ministry of Health in Antigua and Barbuda has set an ambitious goal to eradicate cervical cancer from the country by 2030. The Minister, Sir Molwyn Joseph, recently presented a comprehensive three-pronged approach to achieve this mission.
Currently, cervical cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, after colon and breast cancer. In a prominent gathering held in Washington D.C., Sir Molwyn Joseph presented a paper titled “
Acceleration Actions for the Elimination of Cervical Cancer – the Antigua and Barbuda Experience”, which sheds light on the current cervical cancer landscape within the nation and outlines a strategic plan to eliminate the disease by the end of this decade.
“We are aware that cervical cancer is preventable and curable through: • HPV vaccination • Cervical Screening • Early identification and treatment of precancerous diseases and early-stage cervical cancer,” he stated.
Sir Molwyn said cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Antigua and Barbuda and the government has decided to implement the World Health Organisation’s global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem.
“Antigua and Barbuda established the National Cervical Cancer Taskforce to oversee the implementation of the WHO strategy for eliminating cervical cancer through the achievement of the following 3 targets by 2030: 1. 90% of girls fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by age 15 years 2. 70% of women are screened with a high-performance test, by 35 years of age and again by 45 years of age, and, 3. 90% of women identified with cervical disease receive treatment,” he announced.
Despite the ambitious action plan presented by the minister, there were notable challenges on the path to eliminating cervical cancer.
These challenges include a lack of sufficient knowledge and awareness regarding vaccination and a concerning increase in vaccine hesitancy observed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address these hurdles, two key strategies have been outlined. First, there will be an expansion of the HPV screening program, with a particular focus on high-risk groups, such as women living with HIV. Second, there will be the development of outreach programs aimed at bolstering HPV vaccine uptake. These initiatives will involve community engagement and health literacy improvement activities.
Sir Molwyn emphasized that Antigua and Barbuda have been pioneers in the battle against cervical cancer and remain steadfast in their commitment to achieving the 2030 goal of elimination.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Cervical cancer is preventable and curable, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.
Yet it is the 4th most common form of cancer among women worldwide, with the disease claiming the lives of more than 300,000 women in 2018.