On March 4 2017 in Cape Town, the International Papilloma Virus Society (IPVS) set aside the annual International Human Papillomavirus (HPV) awareness day. The inaugural commemoration happened on March 4 this year.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of HPV and encourage governments and individuals worldwide to take action to improve access to HPV prevention and screening to reduce the risks of opportunistic diseases, including cancers of the cervix, mouth and throat, anus and genitalia.
This is happening 34 years after Nobel Laureate Harald zur Hausen first attributed cancer of the cervix to the virus.
Today, cervical cancer is among the most common cancers in women and the leading cause of death among female Africans.
This underscores the necessity to increase knowledge and education about HPV and related cancers. Such information will greatly help reduce the number of women dying of cervical cancer annually.
HPV has been described as one of the most common and costly infections of the female genital tract.
According to Kevin of Emory University in Atlanta State, these cost include pap tests, treatment of genital warts, follow-up of cellular changes and cytological abnormalities and management of cervical cancer.
HPV is a virus mostly transmitted through oral, vaginal or anal sex. It is the most sexually transmitted disease globally. Presently there are over 100 types of HPV and over 60 of them cause warts.
HPV 16 and 18 are high risks and connected to cancer.
The majority of HPV infections are addressed by the body’s immune system and do not develop any symptoms.
However, about 500 000 new cases are reported every year.
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that cervical cancer alone causes almost 250 000 deaths annually.
HPV is easy to transmit and nearly 80 percent of us will be infected in our lifetimes.
Vaccination provides a good means of prevention. Other preventive measures include abstinence, avoiding multiple sexual partners and consistent condom use.
The inaugural HPV Awareness Day, themed HPV Affects Everyone, was supported by 80 partners worldwide who worked together to share consistent messages through various channels and languages.
The Earth’s Microorganisms Organisation (EMO) fronted the campaign in Africa using flash mobs, seminars and lectures to raise awareness and encourage action.
The partnership led by IPVS transcended religious, political and professional boundaries to achieve a common goal.
Since HPV affects everyone, all hands must be on deck to enlighten and educate people about this virus and the negative impacts-and how to prevent it.
After the euphoria that characterised the observance, how well have we utilised and amplified the message in our local communities.
This campaign was designed to increase knowledge about HPV and related cancers.
This information should not be amplified only during the international awareness day. We should see it as a priority to educate people about HPV and how to prevent it.
We must continue to eliminate negative impressions, misconception and assertions that will impede the progress of HPV preventive, including vaccines which scientific research shows to be safe.
IPVS has set the ball rolling to initiate this campaign to save women and men that can benefit from the HPV vaccine and screening for the early detection of cancer and treatment. We must keep it rolling before the next HPV Awareness Day. Only in this way we can feel the greater impact of this campaign.
We must endeavor to make every day an HPV awareness day. n