Patient at the clinic wearing the cloth
We are excited to announce that 3,271 women were screened from April through October 2015; a 5-fold increase in rates through the efforts of the campaign!
While cervical cancer screening had been available in 2014, rates were low due to lack of demand for the procedure, lack of staff training, and lack of supplies. We were able to address all these issue through low-cost interventions. We ensured that screening supplied were monitored and restocked at each clinic. By training healthcare staff in partnership with public health officials, we ensured that all changes and improvements were accepted and monitored. These officials were able to help us overcome barriers when issues arose. All the midwives who were trained to do screening have continued training new midwives to perform the procedure.
The momentum gained during our campaign is continuing! Women are still requesting screening, and even clinic night staff report getting requests for screening.
Interestingly, we were encouraged to see high rates of HIV testing at all clinics (77% of 500 women surveyed), including the clinic where GAIA has run an HIV prevention program for over a decade. While only 13% of women had heard of HPV, the majority of women had heard of cervical cancer and there was a strong desire for HPV vaccination. Of the women who wanted their daughters vaccinated 73% specifically mentioned “prevention” or “protection”, and 11% responded using the Malian proverb that was printed on the cloth, “It’s better to prevent than cure”.
Due to the scientific nature of the print, we also asked women how they interpreted the design. After they had learned about HPV and cervical cancer during an education session, 99% (of 238 women who participated in an education session) were able to correctly identify the imagery in the cloth pattern (although 20% also said it looked like “flowers in a field” and 10% said “stars in the sky”, demonstrating that the pattern has some abstract interpretations that make it more decorative and wearable). Since the fabric was widely distributed, we witnessed a much broader uptake than expected. Many men and children also wore the story-telling cloth regularly. It was spotted in the central market place, and always generated questions and curiosity.
As news and imagery of the “story-telling cloth” spreads, it is gaining recognition and interest. In a recent discussion with a researcher in Ghana, there is significant interest in establishing a similar method of community-led education using the cloth pattern to raise cervical cancer screening rates.
With our success in the first campaign, we are eager to gain support to continue to expand this program. The next step is to run a similar campaign in rural parts of Mali where women have even less access to care. Please join us, and remember, you can sport you own style of "story-telling cloth" by ordering it through the website here!
Screening rate increase at each clinic
One of our surgeons with her HPV cloth bag