With support from the United States, Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Health is training health care providers to conduct a cervical cancer screening and treatment program for HIV-positive women. This holistic approach to women’s health is critical to stemming the second-leading cause of cancer in women in the developing world. Women living with HIV are often at a higher risk for cervical cancer, and in Côte d’Ivoire about 6,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year.
Using health care systems supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), trainees from nine sites screened 2,740 women living with HIV between April 2009 and August 2010. Of the 290 women who had an abnormal screening, 146 received immediate treatment, while others were referred to an advanced care site.
Tere Djesslet, a 36-year-old, HIV-positive mother of two participated in the cervical cancer screening. Tere acknowledged that it was difficult to sit through the screening knowing that she may be diagnosed with yet another potentially life-threatening disease, but she was “happy and relieved” to learn that she was healthy.
In the coming year, implementers hope to expand the program by starting screen-and-treat services at 11 more health facilities, training 64 providers and supervisors and 20 national trainers, and preparing two referral hospitals to see more complicated cases. The project will also support community education about the importance of screening women for this preventable and treatable disease.
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