On May 28, 2013, for the first time in the history of Swaziland, Cervical Cancer Screening Services were launched in the rural community of Ngculwini, just outside the town of Manzini. The launch saw 30+ women screened for cervical cancer. It is exciting times indeed for the women of Swaziland, given that it has the highest HIV prevalence (26%), coupled with very high poverty levels (63%). Below is a group photo of the team from Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Swaziland Breast & Cervical Cancer Network staff and board members, Ngculwini Clinic Nurses, together with Chief Mgebiseni (gentlemen with an IPad).
The Chief made the following remarks during the launch:
The MC, the Chief and Elders of Ngculwini, Associate Director of Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF), faculty members of BMSF, Representative of the CEO of RFM , Board and staff of Swaziland Breast and Cervical Cancer Network (SBCCN), Ngculwini Clinic staff, Rural Health Motivators, the media, ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning as we launch cervical cancer screening services in our local clinic. The inclusion of cervical cancer screening in the services of the clinic is very significant in a country such as ours where women form the majority of our population and despite the high prevalence of HIV among women; the majority are living relatively healthy and enjoying long survival with the virus as a result of the availability of ARVs in the country. But as we strive further to increase access to ARVs to ensure HIV+ women stay healthy and live longer, treatable conditions such as cervical cancer could be an impediment to attain this goal if not given enough attention. It is for this reason that I am very happy that women in my community do not have to travel elsewhere but can have access to cervical cancer screening right at their door step.
As we already know, every woman may be at risk of cervical cancer that is caused by a virus called Human papilloma virus (HPV) easily transmitted through genital skin contact; and HIV positive women I am told are at a higher risk of contracting this virus. This makes cervical cancer a disease of great concern in Swaziland; and all efforts to prevent its occurrence is a very welcoming initiative.
I thank the Bristol Myers Squibb foundation and Swaziland Breast and Cervical Cancer Network for assisting the community with continues education on breast and cervical cancer and HIV/AIDs and now, the provision of cervical cancer screening to ensure early detection and early treatment of any cancerous condition. I thank the nurses at the clinic who are going to render this service and I encourage you to create a very warm environment for our women to be confident in you to come out for screening.
My remarks will not be complete if I don’t mention again that prevention is always better than cure. As I have mentioned earlier, the virus that causes cervical cancer is acquired through unprotected sex. Therefore, I wish to appeal especially to our young maidens to abstain from sex until they are ready for marriage, or stick to one partner ensuring that they use condom consistently. Let us live healthy lifestyles to ensure that we minimise our risk of acquiring this disease.
As the chief of this community, I announce my support for this program and lead the crusade to fight breast and cervical cancer in Ngculwini and for that matter Swaziland. I encourage all the women to utilize this service.
Thank You all.
As stated by the Chief in his remarks, the challenge is left with the community to utilize the services. The question we ask the Ministry of Health together with other development partners, is, "what happens after the screening?" The country of Swaziland needs to embrace and own these services, and especially consider the treatment of those found with traces of the cancer of the cervix. This should be done as of yesterday, especially given the relationships between these cancers and HIV. As the BMSF Technical Assistance Program Country Representative, I would like to thank BMSF for their generosity and support to nascent, emerging NGOs who work tirelessly to impact people in the communities of Swaziland.