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New partnership to fight cervical cancer and HIV


UNAIDS, International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, World Cancer Day, new partnership, Cervical Cancer, HIVCervical cancer is the most common cancer among women living with HIV.

UNAIDS and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have joined forces to increase action against cervical cancer and HIV.

In a memorandum of understanding signed following an event at the headquarters of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, marking World Cancer Day, UNAIDS and the IAEA pledged to scale up and expand services for adolescent girls and women affected by cervical cancer and HIV.

Cervical cancer and HIV are inextricably linked. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women living with HIV, who are up to five times more likely to develop the disease than women without HIV, and women infected with certain types of the human papillomavirus also face a double risk of acquiring HIV.

In 2018, around 311,000 women died of cervical cancer; 85 per cent of  them were in low- and middle-income countries, where vaccination, screening and treatment programmes are limited.

Around 70 per cent of women who develop cervical cancer require radiotherapy to effectively treat the disease; however, IAEA estimates that one third of low- and middle-income countries do not offer adequate radiation medicine services to meet patient needs.

But the high mortality rate from cervical cancer globally could be greatly reduced by stepping up action in those countries.

In Africa, 28 countries do not have a single radiotherapy unit.

Part of the IAEA’s work is to help countries in the use of nuclear and radiation medicine to treat cervical and other types of cancer.

As part of the new agreement, UNAIDS and the IAEA will work together to support national strategies and programmes to develop integrated workplans for HIV and cervical cancer.

In addition, they will mobilise resources to expand prevention, diagnosis and treatment services, train health professionals and raise awareness about the links between HIV and cervical cancer.

“How is it fair that 90 per cent of girls in high-income countries have access to the human papillomavirus vaccine, yet in low- and middle-income countries just 10 per cent have access?” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, asked.

“Like HIV, cervical cancer is a disease of health, gender and socioeconomic inequalities for women and girls all over the world,” she continued.

“Services must be expanded and integrated as an investment in the lives of women and girls and to uphold their right to health.”

“Cervical cancer is one of those cancers that are perfectly treatable and curable if you live in Vienna, Buenos Aires, Rome or Paris,” the IAEA’s Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said. “If you happen to live in a country with limited access to radiotherapy that is something that can kill you.”

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