One of Africa’s leading affordable healthcare providers, mPharma, is on a mission to give 10,000 women in Ghana and Nigeria free cervical cancer screenings, treatment, and prevention medication.
The campaign, dubbed the Ten Thousand Women Initiative (TTWI), will benefit 6,000 women in Ghana and 4,000 women in Nigeria. So far, the company has distributed 3,000 items for free screening in Ghana across 11 regions.
At a media engagement, the Chief Operating Officer at mPharma, Sophia Baah, told journalists that the goal is to create awareness and encourage women to get screened to get the needed help in good time.
According to her, the 3,000 test kits they gave out in Ghana came back with about 40% positive cases, which is way above the 26% usually quoted, and that is an indication that a lot of information is not being captured about cervical cancer.
She notes that cervical cancer is the second largest killer of women after breast cancer, but women often shy away from the test partly because of the cost.
Available statistics indicate that in Ghana, cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Currently, estimates suggest that some 2,797 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 1,699 die annually.
Meanwhile, within the West African sub-region, about 4.3% of women in the general population are estimated to harbour . These two are responsible for almost 50% of high-grade cervical pre-cancers
HPV 16 and 18 are high-risk types of viruses known to increase the risk of cervical, vaginal significantly, and vulvar cancer in women and penile cancer in men. The strains can also cause anal and throat cancers in men and women.
Despite this risk facing the country and the African continent, there remains a considerable shortfall in the continent’s testing infrastructure for infectious disease, which became even more apparent in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak.
Sophia Baah noted that mPharma believes that “For a continent with an extremely high prevalence of HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and other viral diseases, improving the capacity for molecular diagnostics should be a top priority.”
mPharma – building an Africa in Good Health!
According to her, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore, mPharma equipped 40 private and public labs with PCR machines capable of performing molecular tests such as cervical cancer, Hep B, and HIV.
“This campaign is therefore partnering with some of these labs to improve testing of these disease areas starting with cervical cancer. The mission is to encourage all women to #ownit and #getscreened,” she said.
The company believes that HPV-DNA-based tests are the preferred method because they can detect high-risk strains of HPV that cause almost all cervical cancers. In addition, self-collected samples by the women themselves are vital to providing effective HPV-DNA testing.
WHO call to action
The mPharma TTWI is also primarily driven by the World Health Organization call to action, which states that “Effective and accessible cervical screening and treatment programs in every country are non-negotiable if we will end the unimaginable suffering caused by cervical cancer.”
The WHO’s global strategy for cervical cancer elimination aims to screen 70% of women globally regularly for cervical disease with a high-performance test by 2030; provide treatment to at least 90% of those who need it, and vaccinate 90% of girls against the HPV.
So, in pursuit of that noble goal, mPharma aims to increase awareness and public health education on cervical cancer and the link between persistent HPV infection and cervical cancer, improve access to HPV testing by leveraging the molecular diagnostics infrastructure already established by mPharma, integrate HPV vaccinations with the HPV test through a “Test and Prevent” program and provide an opportunity for medical experts to share knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer.
mPharma is a company that partners with major pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies, financial institutions, and governments to deliver medicines directly into the hands of consumers in these underserved markets. mPharma’s business solutions provide doctors, patients, and pharmacists access to a network of high-quality medicines at sustainable prices.