Cervical cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women across the Commonwealth. Having been recognized as a major health concern by the World Health Organization, it is now more important than ever that everyone - regardless of gender - contributes to the attainment of the ambitious 90-70-90 target to ensure that we are on track to eliminating cervical cancer.
Blog by Mogau Makitla, Communications Lead for A4HPV and Anita Graham, Lead for the A4HPV Working Group, Commonwealth Youth Health Network
Most cases of cervical cancer arise from a persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, and can infect individuals of all sexes. HPV-infected cells in the cervix can subsequently turn cancerous - resulting in cervical cancer. Luckily, a vaccine exists for HPV, which offers protection against cervical cancer.
The vaccine can be administered to individuals as young as nine years of age, which emphasises the importance of commencing elimination efforts as early as possible through interventions such as adopting gender-neutral approaches to HPV programming and the inclusion of HPV vaccines in the national routine childhood immunisation programmes across Commonwealth countries.
Alliance for Active Action Against HPV
The Alliance for Active Action Against HPV (A4HPV) was formed in response to the need for youth inclusion and meaningful youth engagement to raise awareness about HPV and eliminate cervical cancer in the Commonwealth by 2030. A4HPV is hosted under the auspices of the Commonwealth Youth Health Network and was officially launched at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in 2022 in Kigali.
A4HPV has a strong connection to the work of the Commonwealth International Taskforce on Cervical Cancer Elimination, with several members of A4HPV sitting on this Taskforce.
A4HPV has since been a leading voice for young people in the Commonwealth on cervical cancer. Earlier this year, we hosted a Twitter Space discussing the role of Commonwealth youth in the fight against HPV and cervical cancer. We were joined by Salome Mosha, co-founder of Saratani AI, whose technology startup uses artificial intelligence to facilitate early screening for cervical cancer - an example of the many ways young people are leading the charge for cervical cancer elimination.
Growing awareness of HPV and cervical cancer
Later this year, A4HPV will be launching digital workshops to develop the capacity of young people around the Commonwealth to join in on advocacy for HPV awareness and cervical cancer elimination, particularly in Nigeria and India where new country A4HPV chapters will be established.
Today, A4HPV marks International HPV Awareness Day, with the launch of a social media toolkit. We invite you to raise your voice today by using this interactive toolkit to raise awareness about the links between HPV and cervical cancer, debunk popular myths and misconceptions associated with HPV and cervical cancer, and to initiate these conversations across digital media platforms. That includes sharing a Facebook post, a tweet or an Instagram post using the hashtags #A4HPV and #HPVAwarenessDay. You can also join in on A4HPV's TikTok dance challenge!
As Commonwealth youth, we are committed to playing our part in HPV awareness and cervical cancer elimination. Join us on the road to a cervical cancer-free Commonwealth by the year 2030!
- Amy Coles Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat