Why a Global HPV Consortium Now?

5 Questions with Sabin’s President of Global Immunization, Anuradha Gupta

1.    What’s the impetus behind this Global HPV Consortium?

A woman dies of cervical cancer every 90 seconds. This is an avertable tragedy because we have effective tools in our arsenal to prevent cervical cancer. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has proven safe and effective in protecting against HPV infection and preventing cervical cancer. However, 14 years after its introduction in 2009, only 1 in 7 eligible girls are vaccinated. Moreover, access to screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions also remains inadequate in low- and middle-income countries where 90% of cervical cancer deaths occur. Meanwhile, the burden of HPV induced diseases continues to rise, with an estimated 600,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 340,000 deaths each year. Frighteningly, cervical cancer incidence is increasing among young women- 15-49 years of age.

To respond to these life-threatening trends, and as part of our work to ensure everyone has access to the full range of protection against vaccine-preventable diseases, the Sabin Vaccine Institute has agreed to lead the Global HPV Consortium that unites a diverse and expanding set of partners behind the common goal of HPV prevention and cervical cancer elimination. Together, we will mobilize synergistic action across the three pillars included in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2018 Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative:

  • Vaccination
  • Screening
  • Treatment

Cervical cancer is the only cancer that the world has collectively resolved to eliminate but for that to happen, silos of vaccination, screening and treatment must be demolished.

2.     What is Sabin’s role in the Global HPV Consortium?

Change happens through movements, not mandates. It’s with that lens and motivation that Sabin is embarking on this audacious journey to bring a wide range of important voices into this Consortium. We want to topple the silos, promote trans-disciplinary collaboration, and amplify the participation of adolescents, youth, and women as champions and changemakers.

Sabin will lead this trans-disciplinary alliance as its Secretariat and is responsible for uniting partners around a comprehensive and thoughtful action plan. The plan will consider some of the current stumbling blocks to cervical cancer elimination and integrate the strengths of diverse Consortium partners to map out and bolster dynamic and contextual solutions.

We have already initiated the process of setting up an HPV community under Sabin’s Boost platform comprising 3,600 immunization professionals in 153 countries.

3.     What are the goals of the Global HPV Consortium launch?

With this launch, the Global HPV Consortium begins to create actionable steps to quicken the pace of HPV prevention and cervical cancer elimination. Country leaders, policy makers, implementers, researchers, community advocates and champions, public institutions, private sector, and non-profits would come together to share perspectives, experiences and knowledge and define a unified vision. Diverse ecosystems such as immunization, cancer-control, non-communicable diseases, reproductive and adolescent health, HIV, gender equity and women empowerment would coalesce and commit to solidarity and symbiotic action. The goal is to acknowledge the vast heterogeneity between and within countries and anchor actions around 3 key principles: integration, equity, sustainability.

4.     Who is in the Consortium?

The Consortium represents a wide array of partners from public and private sectors, including governments, industry, and non-profits. A current list of the Consortium’s growing number of formal partners is on the Global HPV Consortium website. For the launch event in September, participants, affiliates, and supporters include representatives from governments, research organizations, implementing agencies, industry, advocacy groups, women’s coalitions, adolescent and youth groups, and non-profits.

5.     What happens after the Global HPV Consortium launch?

Going into this gathering, we are a collaborative- all about inspiring and driving change to save lives. We will work with Consortium participants and partners to listen, understand, conceptualize, and then flesh out a multi-year implementation plan. The plan will:

  • Encompass issues from political commitment, financing, and policy to community-level service delivery.
  • Enhance the participation of adolescents, young people and women in the global HPV prevention agenda.
  • Listen to communities about their needs and aspirations and plough those learnings into an impactful response that spurs and scales up local innovation.

Consortium partners will carry messaging to the United Nations General Assembly meetings in September; to the 1.8 Billion Young People for Change Global Forum for Adolescents ‘23 in October; and to all our collective meetings, conferences and platforms going forward.

If we do nothing, cervical cancer cases are expected to go up more than 50% by 2040. We must reverse this trend. That would need fresh thinking and approaches — and that is the purpose of this Consortium. Ultimately, we all want the same outcome: to help end the tragedy of women dying of a cancer that can mostly be prevented with existing tools.