Good morning. I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the United States government to applaud Namibia’s people and government for taking bold steps in the prevention and control of cervical cancer. It is my honor today to hand over potentially life-saving equipment that will complement efforts to improve timely screening and treatment of cervical cancer for women across this country.
Last week, I joined the Honorable Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Richard Kamwi, in the launch of the 2014 national HIV Sentinel Survey Report. That Report indicated a national HIV prevalence rate in Namibia of 16.9 percent. But it also showed that in some northern regions, such as in Zambezi, the rate is an alarming 36 percent.
Scientific evidence indicates clearly that women who are HIV-positive have a high risk of developing cervical cancer. In order to address that risk, the U.S. government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – PEPFAR – provides resources for cervical cancer prevention and control in Namibia.
The prevention and control of cervical cancer depends on community awareness, education, and opportunities provided to women to seek cancer screening in a timely manner. Today’s Health Walk for Cancer was an important step – or many steps! – closer to raising community awareness that could help save lives.
In July, the Namibian government launched Visual Inspection with Acetic Acid (VIA) and treatment by cryotherapy. In parallel in July, the United States supported the training of Namibian nurses and doctors on the “Screen and Treat” technique for cervical cancer using the VIA and cryotherapy.
The “Screen and Treat” technique enables women to be screened and treated in one visit to a health facility. This revolutionary technique performed by skilled healthcare professionals equips Namibia with the technical capacity to save lives.
But to be truly effective, this kind of training must be coupled with a national strategy for cancer control. For that reason, the U.S. government will collaborate with the Ministry of Health and Social Sciences early in 2015 to convene a stakeholders strategic planning meeting in order to finalize the draft national strategy for cancer prevention and control.
No single partner can combat cancer alone. I am delighted to have the chance today to learn about the efforts of all the other partners that support the Namibian government’s efforts to prevent and control cervical cancer.
For our part, as Namibia’s partner in the effort to improve timely screening and treatment, the American people have funded the procurement of eight new and complete colposcopy units.
Due to the increased risk of cervical cancer among women infected with HIV, it is our hope that these colposcopy units will improve access to cervical cancer screening, early detection, and treatment. A healthy woman means healthy children, healthy communities, and a healthy Namibia.
It is my honor and privilege, on behalf of the American people, officially to hand over this potentially life-saving equipment to the Ministry of Health and Social Services and to help bring Namibia one step closer to preventing and treating cervical cancer.