HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa

by GAIA Vaccine Foundation
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HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa
HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa

In West Africa, about one in five people have HPV. Studies have found that this high prevalence is explained by the presence of many factors that increase chances of contracting HPV in Mali. Early sexual activities and pregnancies increase the propensity for contracting HPV, and this is a common occurrence in Mali as girls are often married off during childhood or young adulthood. Having multiple sexual partners also increase the chance of carrying and contracting HPV, and as polygamy is culturally practiced, this is a factor that increases the spread of HPV, Having underlying sexually transmitted diseases, which are also easily spread through multiple partners, also increase the likelihood of being susceptible to HPV. 

As many of these factors are unlikely to disappear or change in the near future, it is crucial to provide HPV vaccinations to young girls and women in Mali. Prevention is a main pillar in GAIA VF’s mission - donate today to further the work!

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In Mali, cervical cancer is the leading cause in female cancer-related deaths. Across West Africa, Mali has the third highest incidence rate of cervical cancer. On average, 38 out of 100,000 women develop cervical cancer. Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be linked to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is capable of lingering, taking upwards of 15 years to develop into cervical cancer. However, there are highly effective vaccines against HPV, decreasing infections by up to 86%. The vaccines are most effective when given before being infected, and many HPV vaccination campaigns are targeted at school-girls beginning with ages 11-13 years old.


Most vaccination campaigns focus on schools as the target age range is the usual school-going age. However, many children in Mali who do not attend schools are missed by these campaigns. Since 2019, school closures tripled in Mali due to political instability, threats of violence, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, Mali is ranked in the top three among African countries for the lowest enrollment and completion rates for girls. This already provides less opportunities for school HPV vaccination campaigns to reach them. During the pandemic, further school closures forced 4 million girls out of school in Mali, Niger, and South Sudan combined. GAIA Vaccine Foundation’s clinic based vaccination drives provide more avenues for girls to be vaccinated against HPV and lower their risk of developing cervical cancer. At just 5 dollars per dose, you can directly impact the lifelong health of a child.  

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As efforts ramp up to raise awareness about the prevention and vaccination for COVID-19, it is important to keep another major infectious disease in mind. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that is highly linked to the development of cervical cancer.

Systematic reviews have revealed that cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in Mali. On average, 38 women out of 100,000 develop cervical cancer. In 2018, the World Cancer Research Fund ranked Mali as 8th in the world for its high cervical cancer rate. The HPV vaccine is safe and highly effective, especially in adolescents. An imPACT review published by the International Atomic Energy Agency in February 2021 identified increasing vaccinations against HPV as a critical aspect of cancer prevention in Mali.

This falls directly in line with GAIA Vaccine Foundation ’s mission of vaccination and prevention of infectious diseases. Even as efforts increase to raise awareness about the prevention and vaccination for COVID-19, it is important to continue our support of HPV and cervical cancer prevention. Any amount is monumentally important to provide life-changing HPV vaccines, cervical cancer treatments, and HPV education programs.

Thank you for your support!

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Cervical cancer disproportionately affects women in low and middle income countries, as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is less frequently available or not available at all in many parts of the world. In 2018 Médecins Sans Frontières reports, approximately 311,000 women died as a result of cervical cancer. Over 80% of these women lived in low and middle income countries, such as Mali. 

The HPV vaccine is considered extremely effective in preventing the development of cervical cancer. It is recommended that all adolescent girls receive the vaccine as a means of preventing cervical cancer.

As the HPV vaccine is currently unavailable in Mali, supporting other means of preventing the contraction of the virus are extremely important. These include education on how to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as HPV. GAIA Vaccine Foundation aims to fill this gap by providing free weekly reproductive health classes at the Teen Peer Education program at Hope Center Clinic. 

In 2018, 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed. GAIA VF needs your help to ensure that educational programs can continue to reach as many Malian teens as possible to prevent cervical cancer. Thus far in 2020, 1,360 Malian teens have attended the program, 1,055 of which were girls. 

Thank you for your continued support to GAIA VF!

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At GAIA VF, we have four main objectives: Education, Vaccination, Prevention, and Access to care. One of our initiatives, the HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Initiative, is rooted in all four. 

Though not formally beginning until 2015, work for the HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Initiative began in 2011. We began a two-fold analytical study in Mali as research for a future HPV vaccine campaign. To provide context, the Human Papillomavirus is responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and its vaccine is 99 percent effective. Despite this, cervical cancer is the most common cancer among Malian women, and the leading cause of all cancer-related mortalities. Considering this high fatality rate, it is shocking that the results of our study demonstrated that only 8.6% knew that HPV was a sexually transmitted disease, and only 2.7% had ever had a cervical exam. 

It is unacceptable that a country suffering disproportionately from cervical cancer cases does not have a widely-available vaccine preventing 70% of cases accessible in the country. For that reason, in order to combat this inequity, GAIA VF has been working to not only provide access to the HPV vaccine, but also educate Malian women about the importance of cervical screenings and sexual health. 

In West Africa, textiles are often used as a source of communication. The patterns printed on the textiles often convey stories, quotes, and/or morales. In March 2015, GAIA VF launched our unique storytelling campaign, designing a pattern surrounding the importance of the HPV vaccine/cervical cancer prevention. This design tells the story of strong, educated women who proclaim: “I protect myself, I take care of myself, and I immunize myself,” a mantra that is written across images of healthy cervixes. Through integrating the HPV/cervical cancer initiative within the textiles, Malian culture is interwoven with our goals of spreading awareness about cervical screenings and the HPV vaccine. It allows for the topic to be addressed in a familiar manner, raising awareness in a culturally relevant fashion. 

In addition to the storytelling project, our staff clinic are working tirelessly raising awareness. While wearing the HPV cloth, peer educators will lead programs and initiatives in different neighborhoods, while medical staff are responsible for information sessions at our clinics. In terms of media, radio personnel are involved in incorporating the importance of regular screening and the HPV vaccine within their programming. 

GAIA is committed to supplying clinics with supplies to offer free cervical exams and provide access to the HPV vaccine.  An April 2020 study conducted by the medical journal Vaccines reveals that as of now, “neither [HPV] vaccines nor screenings are within the reach of the population in Mali…”, indicating that our work is far from over. In order to continue and expand our work in Mali, please continue donating to not only provide access to the HPV vaccine and cervical screenings, but also work to eliminate the associated stigma. Any amount helps- a donation of $10 provides a cervical cancer screening and printed cloth for 1 woman, and $15 provides treatment for 1 woman with precancerous lesions. Amidst COVID-19 and the extreme political unrest in the country, your contribution goes a long way in helping us expand access to the HPV vaccine, cervical screening, and awareness campaigns. 

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GAIA Vaccine Foundation

Location: Providence, RI - USA
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GAIA Vaccine Foundation
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