Cervical cancer is one of the major killers among women in Rwanda, and with the support of Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, the country is rolling out a free human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and cervical cancer screening program in collaboration with Marck, Qiagen (a Dutch pharmaceutical company), the World Health Organization (WHO), and Unicef.
Half a million women, of whom 97% are school-going girls, have been administered the HPV vaccine (types 16 and 18) (Cervarix). More than 150,000 girls will receive the vaccine before end of 2014, and the government says that at least 2.72 million more school-going girls between the age of 11 and 15 are expected to be vaccinated by 2015.
Cervical cancer is a growing cause of high morbidity and mortality rates among women in Africa. In Rwanda, 678 of 986 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2011 have died. Health Minister, Agnes Binagwaho, MD, says that Rwanda is investing in facilities and training more medical staff to fight cervical cancer and other illnesses. ■