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International HPV Awareness Day 2018 – Know the Facts, Get the Vaccine

1 March 2018: The University of Cape Town (UCT) , National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the Health Promotion South Africa Trust and CANSA will jointly observe the first international Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Awareness Day on the 4th of March 2018.

The team has organised an HPV Awareness Day on Friday, 2nd of March 2018 at 10am, at the Health Information Centre at Baphumelele Children’s Home , Z118 Dabula Street, Khayelitsha.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that infects most sexually active adults in the world (up to 80%). HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer cases and a major cause of oral, anal, and penile cancers, as well as genital warts. Sexually active men and women of all ages should get vaccinated for protection against these cancers as well as genital warts, experts say.

Educate a friend about HPV. You could save their life. Early detection is essential in preventing HPV-related cancers. #GiveLoveNotHPV

“Fortunately, cancers caused by HPV are preventable,” says Prof Anna-Lise Williamson, Chair in Vaccinology at UCT’s Institute for Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM) . “We want to encourage everyone to get their children vaccinated, and to encourage women to have regular Pap smears or HPV tests – that is the best protection against cancers caused by HPV.”

Since 2014, the South African government has rolled out a widespread and successful campaign to vaccinate 9-year-old girls against HPV16 and HPV18, the two types most commonly associated with cervical cancer.

Dr Zizipho Mbulawa , a Medical Scientist at the NICD, is working on a national HPV surveillance programme, which studies which types of HPV are most common in South Africa.

“We have been screening for HPV in 18 to 20-year-old women in primary health care clinics across South Africa since 2014,” she says. “We are trying to understand the HPV situation in South Africa, to see what is going on with the whole population.”

Ultimately, she hopes that their surveillance programme will show that vaccination is indeed reducing HPV 16 and 18 in South African women. In the long term, that will mean less women develop cervical cancer and other HPV16- and HPV18-associated cancers.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in South African women, and is the most deadly. The South Africa cervical cancer prevention programme offers each woman three free pap smears per lifetime, at 10-year intervals from the age of 30. Among HIV-infected women the interval can be shortened. These services are available in some local Community Health Care Facilities.

There are more than 200 different types of HPV, many of which cause mild symptoms and pose little cancer risk. The vaccines currently available prevent infection by the more dangerous HPV types, in other words the ones most likely to cause cancer.

The 4th of March was declared HPV Awareness Day in 2017, as part of the Cape Town Declaration on HPV-Related Disease . This declaration, made by Williamson and colleagues on behalf of the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) , encourages countries around the world to implement cervical screening and HPV vaccination programmes to help protect women and girls regardless of social status.

South Africa leads the continent in this regard, with a robust and well-implemented vaccination programme and a recently-updated free cervical screening policy for all women, according to the researchers. Both Mbulawa and Williamson are also members of the South African Medical Research Council’s Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre.

For media enquiries, contact Zizipho Mbulawa at or 021 406 6352. For more information on HPV screening, cervical cancer screening, and HPV vaccination, ask a GP or local clinic, and contact your local CANSA Care Centre, to arrange a Pap smear. Find more information regarding cervical cancer…


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