Health Ministry launches $2.8B cervical screening programme


To facilitate early detection of cervical cancer and reduce illness and fatalities, the government has launched its comprehensive Cervical Cancer Screening Programme targeting women between the ages of 21 to 65.

With a budget of $2.8 billion, the programme provides $8,000 vouchers for cervical cancer screenings, which can be redeemed at participating institutions including New Vision Medical Centre, Woodlands Limited, HUIAQI Health Service, Eureka Medical Laboratory, and Dr Balwant Singh Hospital.

Minister of Health, Dr Frank Anthony officially launched the initiative at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), on Friday.

The programme is a key component of the 2024-2030 National Action Plan aimed at eliminating cervical cancer. It represents a crucial step towards Guyana’s goal of screening 211,000 women aged 21 to 65 for HPV.

Delivering the feature address, Minister Anthony highlighted cervical cancer as being the second most prevalent cancer among women and the third most prevalent cancer among the population.

He stressed that the initiative is one facet of a broader, comprehensive strategy aimed at eliminating cervical cancer as a public health issue in Guyana.

This strategy encompasses efforts such as vaccinating the population against HPV, increasing early detection, and ensuring the implementation of proper interventions to reduce fatalities.

“In the very early stages, if we see any changes on the cervix, then we can at that early stage, make certain intervention that would prevent cancer from happening…We want to make sure that we detect very early and we intervene very early and once we intervene, the survivability will increase and that is the trust of this programme,” he underscored.

The minister also urged more people to ensure their children and relatives are vaccinated against HPV to protect themselves from the infections that can lead to cancer.

The health minister had previously reported that despite the availability of HPV vaccinations in Guyana for over 11 years, the vaccination rate remains strikingly low.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection that typically shows no symptoms but can cause serious illness if left untreated.

Director of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health, Dr Latchmie Lall, stated that the ambitious target cannot be achieved in isolation, noting that the government has partnered with the private sector to offer testing in a safe, secure, and timely manner.

Test results will be available within 72 to 96 hours.

“We have decided to partner with the hospitals and private facilities…That will not only identify if you have the virus but it will also tell us the strain of the human papilla virus that is present in patients,” she expounded, noting that this information is integral for deciding the next steps of care for women.

During the launching ceremony, representatives from NGOs, various ministries, and agencies received vouchers, which will be distributed to eligible women.

Last week, the health ministry signed several Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with private healthcare providers formalising their partnership for the cervical screening programme.

Several government ministers and representatives, Regional Health Officers, and members of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance. [DPI]