Girls at Risk of HPV transmission: Vaccinations Eliminate Cervical Cancer

By Emma Black, Sierra Leone

The following is an excerpt from an article written by a reporter who was part of a Sabin-supported program for journalists. As part of the program, they covered stories on HPV and cervical cancer in low and middle-income countries.

The Freetown Secondary School for Girls, known fondly as “FSSG”, is a haven for pre-adolescent and teenage girls in the heart of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The junior secondary school hosts around 1,100 girls and Daniella Bangura, 14, will soon transition into senior secondary school with approximately 1,500 other girls. “Yes, I see girls getting pregnant; some show up with bruises or sores and are quiet in class; some bring their market to sell after school and many of my friends are tired. It’s not easy being a girl in Sierra Leone.”

The countless girls and young women across Sierra Leone are at a tremendously high risk of human papillomavirus, or HPV, transmission and resulting cervical cancer. Contributing to the risks facing girls and young women are: violence and sexual abuse, poverty, harmful cultural beliefs, early marriage, and the lack of sex education in schools, among others.

“At around 10-12, is a critical age for children and in the school system,” said Dr Austin Demby, the Minister of Health and Sanitation (MoHS). “It’s where you see the largest group of students and they are transitioning from primary to secondary school. We want HPV vaccinations to be like a rite of passage – a gift from the Ministry that will empower girls and women and protect them from cervical cancer for the rest of their life.”

Read the full article on the Forum News website.

About this Article

Sabin through its Immunization Advocates program supported journalists based in Bolivia, Egypt, Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe interested in working on in-depth investigative reports about HPV vaccination and cervical cancer. Grantees were selected in concert with Sabin partners International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) — as part of the Global Health Reporting Initiative — and Internews. Sabin connected grantees to expertise and information about HPV and cervical cancer and continues to engage with journalists across low- and middle-income countries who are seeking to report on these topics.