Even before my dear friend, Cindy deNeve, died young of cervical cancer, I cared deeply about prevention via HPV vaccination. My new granddaughter and Cindy’s two small daughters will avoid cervical cancer because they can afford the expensive vaccine. Not so for millions of young girls in poor and middle income countries.
But there is hope. At the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur, a large group of healthcare professionals and women’s health advocates gathered to share some of the good news:
- The price has gone down for the poorest countries to $4.50 a dose
- GAVI is committed to rolling out HPV vaccination
- Incredible women such as the First Ladies of Zambia and Mozambique and many others are building political commitment to address HPV one country at a time
- Australia and Malaysia are leaders in this effort
Challenges remain: Experience vaccinating adolescent girls is lacking; costs still are high ($4.50 is too much for the billion people surviving on $1 a day); HIV increases risk; and stigma and fear remain deterrents to girls seeking vaccination. But there is hope and strong advocacy. We are moving forward toward protecting more women from HPV and the cervical cancer it can cause.