Right now in Mali, amidst a political crisis, lie 33,000 doses of the HPV vaccine, unable to be distributed as military funding has become the country’s financial focus. However, the vaccine is perishable, and time is running out. If not utilized within the next few months, the vaccine and with it the possibility of saving thousands of lives, will be wasted.
When we conducted our Malian-based HPV study, a dismal 9.8% of female participants had even heard of cervical cancer. Yet 12%, about 1 in every 10, Malian woman has been diagnosed with HPV. Further, 80% of those diagnosed with cervical cancer will die from the disease. That is, 1,076 Malian women die each year of preventable cervical cancer due to a lack of cytotechnology screening and early treatment programs. Many of these deaths can be eradicated with the same preventative HPV vaccine that has shown success in the developing world.
How is GAIA VF taking action?
We are now gathering and analyzing data in order to validate the usability of the HPV vaccine and obtain approval for its use in Mali and to subsequently build a framework for future vaccine trials. Specifically, GAIA VF will be vaccinating adolescent women in a preventative approach for a sustainable reduction in the prevalence of HPV in Mali.
We are also developping a cloth that tells the story of strong, educated women who proclaim, “I immunize myself, I protect myself, and I take care of myself”– a mantra written as a banner across the image offlowering, healthy cervixes (see attached picture). It is the banner of strength that keeps the virus out of the healthy cervixes, a reminder of the importance of being an educated, vaccinated woman. Every Malian woman who receives the HPV vaccine will receive a cloth so that she might pass on the story of prevention and vaccination, and take on a personal role in curing cervical cancer.
Past, Present, and Future
The GAIA VF HPV vaccine initiative will use traditions of storytelling through textiles in order to change the Malian peoples’ present understanding of HPV and cervical cancer in order to create a foundation of prevention through education and vaccination in Mali. This is an integrated project that involves not only the scientists and personnel at GAIA VF, but the people of Mali in taking steps towards curing cervical cancer.
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