Hundreds turned out at the Stabroek Market Square, Georgetown for the “Big Deal Concert”.
Hosted by the Ministry of Health, on Saturday, the concert aimed to raise awareness of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, and to encourage women to be screened for cervical cancer.
On matters of the HPV vaccine, concertgoers heard from cervical cancer survivors, who in addition to recounting their experiences, related how the vaccine gave them a lease on life.
Attendees were also treated to performance by local singers, Teneicia DeFreitas, and Kwasi Ace, along with dance recitals and poetry.
Opening the show, Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence spoke of her ministry’s efforts to help better prevent and control cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions including Guyana. It is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV.
“Life is a big deal for us” that is why the Ministry has been working to ensure persons understand the importance of the vaccine, Minister Lawrence explained. Clinical trials have shown that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective in reducing the risk of cervical cancer.
The “Big Deal Concert” is part of the Public Health Ministry campaign of relaunching the HPV vaccine in Guyana, to control and prevent cervical cancer in Guyanese girls and women. The campaign which has a focus of distributing approximately 40,000 doses of the vaccine to young girls, officially commenced in September. The rollout has seen Ministry officials meeting with and engaging parents and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) as well as private medical facilities facilitating received free samples of the vaccine.
Several outreaches are also planned across the country. The Ministry is expected to take its campaign to Region Seven this week.
There have been some concerns about vaccine safety and perceived lack of necessity. Minister Lawrence admitted that prior to her governmental appointment, she too was misinformed about the vaccine.
She explained that outreaches are therefore important “so that persons have a correct understanding of what the HPV vaccine is and why young girls need to be inoculated.”
According to a Department of Public Information release, during 2003 – 2012, Guyana recorded 6,518 new cases of cancers for an overall cumulative incidence rate of 867.7 per 100,000 persons. 3,956 (60 per cent) were females and 2,561 (39 per cent) were males, giving a female to male ratio of 1.54:1.
Human papillomavirus is a group of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 HPV types can be easily spread through direct sexual contact, from the skin and mucous membranes of infected persons to the skin and mucous membranes of their partners.
The three vaccines to prevent HPV infection are Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix. Regular screenings can help diagnose HPV-related health problems; this is mainly because cancers caused by the HPV symptoms usually do not show until the late stages.