Cervical cancer kills more women in South Africa than any other form of cancer. It is also more prevalent in HIV positive women than in HIV negative women. While the Department of Health has employed relatively good policies, these policies are not very well implemented. Women should be able to access a cervical cancer screening test every six months for all sexually active women in the public sector, but screening is not always available and awareness of screening is low. As a result, many women only present to the clinic once their cancer is too far advanced to treat effectively.
The Department of Health has also introduced HPV vaccination for grade 9 girls in schools. Over the longer term the vaccination programme should help to bring cervical cancer rates down significantly, since the vast majority of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Unfortunately, there has been significant problems with the implementation of the vaccination programme. We have heard a number of reports of insufficient informed consent processes and there has not been good enough official communication about why the vaccination is important.
In both these areas the TAC’s work is to monitor the availability of services and to advocate for better and more effective service provision and better public awareness campaigns about these important interventions. Our struggle continues.