BY VANESSA GONYE
Men have not been forthcoming in cervical cancer advocacy, derailing progress on the cause to prevent and deal with the disease an official has said.
Speaking to NewsDay yesterday on the build up to the Cervical Cancer prevention week which begins on Monday, Dr Ngonidzashe Ganje, Technical officer cervical cancer services for the Zimbabwe Health Interventions (ZHI) said there is need to give awareness to men so that they understand and take part in efforts to fight cervical cancer.
“Limited involvement of men in advocacy in the prevention of cervical cancer has been a barrier in our efforts towards the cause. Most programs target women and we have established that if we don’t address the men it remains a challenge. For example one day I wanted to treat a woman who had a pre-cancer lesion, she consulted her husband who ordered her not to go through the procedure. She left in tears but had no way out after her husband had made a decision. I think that a lot needs to be done in getting men to take part in the prevention of cervical cancer,” said Ganje.
He said culture or beliefs have also been a barrier in the cause.
“In one district where we covered, you find that despite everything we did no woman was willing to be screened for cervical cancer. We discovered that the chief had influence over that decision as he had said no woman should allow their private parts to be touched except when giving birth. We engaged the chief and after some time the project started progressing,” he said.
He said for next week, they are focusing on the Accelerated and Comprehensive HIV Care (ACCE) program for epidemic control in Zimbabwe, targeting five districts in Manicaland and parts of Midlands.
“For those areas we are implementing the program, if you go to every provincial or district hospital and even clinics we are going to be providing free cervical cancer screening for all women. Our target is women living with HIV but we are not going to exclude anyone. We will use VIAC to do the screening but in Makoni we have introduced HPV DNA testing in 20 selected sites where we are going to do HPV testing which is a high performance test which is more specific and more sensitive as compared to other methods. It has advantages including that it can be done less frequently and it’s also more private. We can have the client taking the sample themselves without having the need for a health care worker,” he said.
The month of January was set aside to raise awareness and generate demand for the uptake of cervical cancer services. In Zimbabwe, cervical cancer screening is offered for free in most government health facilities.
Zimbabwe has a high burden of cervical cancer. According to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, this cancer leads among cancers in women, and constitutes 33.2% of the cancer burden in this population with more than 1400 cases in 2020.
The country has the fifth highest burden of cervical cancer in the world. Over a thousand women die from the disease in the country every year, making it the most common cause of cancer deaths in women in the country.