“Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer”
Second Cervical Cancer Forum 2021- Concept Note
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer affecting women with an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018, representing 6.6% of all female cancers globally. Approximately 90% of deaths from cervical cancer occurred in low- and middle-income countries. It is estimated that deaths due to cervical cancer had reached around 11,000 deaths in 2018, in the east Mediterranean region only. The high mortality rate from cervical cancer can be reduced through a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, early diagnosis, effective screening, treatment programmes and palliative care. There are currently vaccines that protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, hence these vaccines can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and is the cause of a range of conditions in both females and males, including precancerous lesions that may progress to become cancerous. In women, persistent infection with specific oncogenic types of HPV (most frequently types 16 and 18) may lead to precancerous lesions which, if untreated, may progress to cervical cancer.
Diagnosing cervical cancer at an early stage and providing access to effective treatment improves the likelihood of survival. Currently, in many low resource settings, the disease is often not identified until it is further advanced, or treatment is inaccessible, resulting in a higher rate of deaths from cervical cancer.
Target 3.4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is exclusively dedicated to reduce premature mortality from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) by one-third by 2030. The 2011 UN Political Declaration on NCDs and 2014 UN Outcome Document on NCDs includes time- bound commitments made by Heads of State and Government at the UN General Assembly to set national targets, develop national plans to address NCDs, including cervical cancer, and implement “best buy” interventions. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) urges that almost all cervical cancer related deaths could be avoided if all adolescent girls received a vaccine against HPV and cervical screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions is available to all women.
On average, 12% of women worldwide had a detectable cervical HPV infection. Due to the lack of registries and databases, it is difficult to have clear estimates of HPV infection in the Arab region. However, the demographic data on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) show that there are about 1.9 million women aged 15 years and older at risk of cervical cancer. Moreover, it is estimated that about 2.3% of women in the UAE) have HPV type 16 or 18, ata given point in time, which causes approximately 72.4% of invasive cervical cancers in the country. Cervical cancer, caused by HPV, is the seventh leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the UAE, and leads to at least 56 deaths annually.
The UAE is committed to tackling HPV and cervical cancer. The journey to reduce HPV-related diseases started 10 years ago in Abu Dhabi with the initial roll-out of HPV vaccines in schools, a major step forward in the battle against this preventable disease. In 2018, the Ministry of Health and Prevention announced a country-wide rollout of the vaccine in an effort to protect more women and girls from this preventable disease. This means that theUAE are not only joining the global movement in tackling HPV, but they are also leading the MENA region in tackling this vaccine-preventable disease.
National strategies to address cervical cancer prevention and control should be a part of a comprehensiveapproach that includes prevention with HPV vaccination for young girls (and boys when appropriate), screening and treatment for women diagnosed with precancerous lesions, and treatment and palliative care for women with invasive cervical cancer. In order to have an impact on cervical cancer mortality these programmes must have universal coverage of the targeted population and financing for long-term sustainability.
Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) is one of the civil society organizations that have been paramount to the UAEs success in addressing cervical cancer. FoCP have been providing awareness and support to cancer patients for the past 21 years. Through its different community and advocacy initiatives, FoCP has been able to gain widespread recognition and awards from numerous leading institutions, locally, regionally, and internationally for helping cancer patients and creating awareness about the disease. FoCP partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to develop programmatic guidance to the Ministry of Health and partner agencies for the development and revision of their cervical cancer prevention and control programmes.
On the 31st of January 2019, marking the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and to support the national HPVresponse, FoCP hosted the “Turning the Tide on HPV and Cervical Cancer” Forum in the Emirate of Sharjah- UAE.The forum showcased best practices emerging from the UAE and announced the “Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer” that was formulated in partnership with the UNFPA and the MENA Coalition for HPV Elimination. The declaration addresses the actions and the collaborations needed in order to tackle cervical cancer and save countless lives across the region. The declaration highlighted the following three main objectives to be achieved:
- Advocate for regional and national cervical cancer strategies which align with global initiatives;
- Establish cooperative capacity building efforts to expand countries’ and organizations’ cervical cancer control activities; and
- Work with partners to develop and implement innovative technologies for screening and pricing policies to stimulate increased vaccination and screening coverage. Gaining and exchanging experience from other best practices at global
Building on that first forum in Sharjah and supporting the global efforts to increase the awareness on Cervical cancer, FoCP is partnering with UNFPA to host the second Cervical Cancer Forum in 2021 “Accelerating Action on HPV and Cervical Cancer”. The forum will be convened in partnership with local, regional, and international health authorities and centers of medical knowledge such as, Ministry of Health & Prevention- UAE, Health Promotion Research Group- UAE, Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), and WHO (NCD EMRO).Contributors to the Conference will include pioneering actors in this area including: Gavi Alliance, Global Health Institutes and University Hospitals, pioneer researchers, among others.
The forum will review the “Sharjah Declaration on Cervical Cancer” 2019 efforts and aims to:
- Bring together global stakeholders, including academia, community leaders, scientists, and policy makers to promote and enhance programmatic collaborations to more effectively address regional and national responses toHPV and cervical cancer in the Arab region since the previous forum.
- Discuss the establishment of sustainable and equitable cervical cancer and HPV eradication programmes; including under conditions of health emergencies e.g. COVID-19.
The expected outcome of this forum is to propose a set of recommendations and a call for action for addressing cervical cancer that integrates the pillars of prevention, treatment, palliative care and social aspects globally and specifically in the Arab region.
The 2nd Cervical Cancer Forum will be a two-day event organized on 27-28 January 2021 virtually. The online forum platform will allow active interaction among panelists, speakers, and audience members. This modality wasconcluded as the best option to convene the forum in order to prioritize the safety of all forum participants within the COVID-19 pandemic situation, while at the same time ensuring the efficiency of the forum discussions andoutcomes.
For any further information and questions, contact Ms. Haya Merai on [email protected] or +97150 776 0040