Namibia launches first national HPV screening program in cervical cancer fight

Namibia’s Cancer Association (CAN) has announced the first national human papilloma virus (HPV) screening program to fight cervical cancer in the country.

The pilot program, in partnership with Roche, Maxi Labs and Biodynamics, will officially start next Monday, CAN Chief Executive Rolf Hansen said.

“The program will see the complimentary screening of an initial 500 ladies for the HPV,” he said, noting that the testing wil be rolled out as part of the country’s National Cancer Outreach Program.

HPV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. More than 200 distinct HPV types have been indentified, of which at least 18 are high-risk types associated with 99 percent of cervical cancers, the second most common cancer among women, after breast cancer.

“With recurring infections, additional infection by HIV, or in cases where the immune system of the woman simply cannot fight the high-risk viral strain, HPV may lead to the development of a cancerous lesion in the cervix,” Hansen said.

Women who are both HPV- and HIV-positive are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer, he said.

“The general timeline from HPV infection to possible cervical cancer is 10 years. Thus, quality testing and management of HPV mean that we can effectively save more lives, more cost-effectively,” Hansen said.