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Fighting HPV and Cervical Cancer
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Fighting HPV and Cervical Cancer

Over the last two years, the world has been battling the coronavirus. We’ve become more health-conscious, and people – both young and old have been redoubling their efforts to fight diseases that have been plaguing us for thousands of years. 
One of these diseases is cervical cancer. Sarmad Shahbaz, Commonwealth Correspondent from Pakistan, highlights the work of youth advocates at the recent Commonwealth Youth Forum who argue that education and vaccination are the best ways to protect our women and girls from Human Papillomavirus  (HPV) and cervical cancer.

At the recently held Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) in Rwanda, young leaders from across the Commonwealth launched a Taskforce under the Commonwealth Youth Health Network advocating for action to eliminate cervical cancer.  The subject was also addressed at the Innovation, Skills development and Cancer Elimination session at CYF while the I AM Campaign for Cervical Cancer Elimination was launched on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Women’s Forum in Rwanda. 

Cervical cancer claimed the lives of over 300,000 women in 2020 alone. The disease causes abnormal cell growth on the cervix which is often diagnosed too late, especially for women living in low and middle-income countries. It results in life-threatening complications such as severe bleeding, kidney failure and death.

This type of cancer is primarily caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a group of viruses that sometimes cause abnormal tissue growth and cell changes. HPV is most commonly spread during unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse and though 90% of HPV infections clear within 2 years, the virus still exists widely in women. When neglected, the virus can lead to cervical cancer. In 2018 forty-three million HPV cases were reported among young adults; there is cause for alarm.

Chair of the Commonwealth International Taskforce for Cervical Cancer Elimination, Dr Miriam Mutebi said, “It is important to increase understanding around cervical cancer, to normalise conversations around reproductive health and having agency over one’s health, to address and debunk myths around cancers, the use of innovations will help us to disseminate these messages and provide opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.” She was speaking at the Innovation, Skills development and Cancer Elimination session of CYF.

Though cervical cancer only affects women directly, social innovator at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2022 Cindy Chng said, “Cervical cancer is not a woman’s problem, it is everybody’s problem.” Cancer not only causes physical and mental distress to the female who is suffering. It also places emotional, mental and financial strains on other members of the family. 

Cindy Chng added that “Awareness is key, but access saves lives.” HPV and cervical cancer can be countered early through education and vaccination. 

The Commonwealth Youth Taskforce on Cervical Cancer is using its 4HPV platform to create awareness about the disease and to advocate for:

  • Young people across the Commonwealth  becoming more involved in programs targeted at HPV awareness, vaccination, and screening at the national, regional and global levels
  • Young people actively participating in the planning processes for cervical cancer elimination 
  • Vaccinating both boys and girls which can lead to the faster prevention of cervical cancer
  • Corporations with programmes focused on women empowerment to leverage those platforms for cervical cancer awareness and elimination campaigns
  • more doctors and healthcare professionals, particularly family physicians and primary healthcare service providers to be equip with the information needed to educate the target audience about HPV prevention.

 Anyone can sign up to show their support for the Commonwealth Youth Taskforce on Cervical Cancer campaign. 

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Photo Credit: Canva

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About Sarmad Shahbaz: He is a Pakistan-based Socio-Political Analyst with keen interests in Politics and Philosophy. He can be reached out at [email protected]

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles

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