Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women in Kenya and the 2nd most common cancer in women worldwide, but 86% of cases are in developing countries.
The link between hpv infection and cervical cancer is well established, and caused virtually 100% of cases of cervical cancer, hpv 16 and hpv 18 are vaccine preventable types and contribute to 70% of all cervical cancer cases. Cervical cancer is claiming the lives of young women in Africa at a time when they are needed to support and care for young children. The limited medical care makes the management of women dying with these invasive pelvic tumours hugely challenging and distressing.
The vaccine is expensive and therefore not available to the majority of Kenyan women on cost grounds alone; add to that the ignorance of women to health advice, lifestyle measures and access to screening programmes, very few individuals access the vaccine.
This project aims to raise awareness amongst adolescent girls and women of the health risks and educate them on how to protect themselves with risk reducing behaviour. Over 80% of Kenyan women have never had any form of pelvic examination; we hope to dispel some of the ignorance surrounding this and encourage women to attend screening, as well as education around other risk factors of sexual behaviour, smoking contraception etc.
When surveyed, given the information, around 90% of women would present their daughters for hpv vaccination if it were affordable to them.
We have access to the girls at Tumaini, with the additional exciting possibility of going into other local secondary schools to educate and vaccinate the students. The hope is that this would become an on-going programme year on year. It may even become an example to neighbouring schools/districts to take on similar projects, and who knows where it might lead?
Hpv vaccination is the world’s most expensive vaccine; it comprises a course of 3 injections and costs around £45 per child. We have established a supply of vaccines, fridge facilities, and a willing team to get involved with all aspects of this project. To vaccinate all the girls 12 years and over at Tumaini will cost in the region of £8,000. We will purchase as many vaccines as we can with the money raised and start vaccinations in July this year, the more we can fund, the more girls we will be able to vaccinate.
This is a life-saving intervention, and whilst it does not meet the criteria of large scale population disease management, for the individual girls and families involved it is huge.
It’s like throwing starfish back one at a time, but who knows where it might lead????? Would you like to help us throw a starfish back? Visit www.justgiving.com/savealifehpv or simply text HPVM88 to 70070
Written by Dr. Orton