The Global HPV Consortium got off to a great start earlier this month with more than 100 attendees contributing to vibrant discussions on a future free of cervical cancer and new HPV infections.
Participation in the launch event exceeded all expectations! The true diversity of perspectives from across sectors and representation from each WHO region highlighted the global scope and trans-disciplinary nature of the Consortium.
The wide spectrum of insights – all drawn from participants sharing their experiences – included these key messages:
Cervical cancer elimination requires more noise and a greater sense of urgency
Cervical cancer is preventable. It can be eliminated within our lifetime. This message should be repeated louder and louder until it is heard. A woman must not die of cervical cancer every 90 seconds. These deaths are preventable, and inaction will only result in more lives lost, more women dying in their prime and more children getting orphaned. The cost to the global economy will be US$28 billion by 2040. The Global HPV Consortium will accelerate the fight against HPV and cervical cancer by raising awareness at global and country levels and becoming the go-to hub for knowledge, evidence, data, and best practices.
Program and partner silos must be toppled in favor of an integrated approach
Cervical cancer is the only cancer that can be eliminated by seamlessly integrating vaccination, screening, and treatment, yet most countries do not have a cervical cancer elimination policy or plan that provides for, and integrates, services across these three pillars. The Consortium will support the development of national cervical cancer elimination policies and operational plans that foster and integrated approach to vaccination, screening and treatment.
Greater attention must be directed at high-risk populations
Women living with HIV have higher HPV prevalence rates and are 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer. Conversely, HPV infection significantly increases the risk of HIV transmission. Yet, the HPV-HIV connection receives scant attention. Meanwhile, other high-risk groups, such as transgender individuals, do not figure in global guidance and country programs. The Consortium will spotlight the needs of these and other high-risk groups to ensure their inclusion in global and country-level policies and response.
Cross-learning is critical but approaches must be tailored to unique country contexts
Countries are heterogenous and, within countries, communities are diverse. This calls for tailored solutions at the local level and a deeper understanding of the social and behavioral drivers of acceptance and demand. Moving away from global prescriptions, the Global HPV Consortium will showcase exemplars, surface best practices, facilitate cross-learning, and incentivize local innovations and solutions.
Sustainability of programs is fragile. Holistic and integrated approaches to policy, financing, and service delivery will accelerate and shore up progress.
External funding is ad hoc and domestic financing is insufficient. The consortium must work towards greater political will, increased funding opportunities, new skills and financial instruments, and innovations in service and product delivery to ensure sustainable progress and results. The Consortium will highlight important evidence gaps and learning questions, advocating for sufficient investments in studies and implementation research.
The launch event was the beginning of our journey towards achieving 90:70:90 goals enshrined in WHO’s cervical cancer elimination strategy. The Global HPV Consortium partners will now build on the above takeaways and begin to form an Action Plan based on 4 key principles:
We make vaccines more accessible, enable innovation and expand immunization across the globe.