Girls in Gulu to Receive Vaccine against Cervical Cancer

Gulu District Health Department is set to embark on mass immunization against the Human Papilomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer in women.

The exercise is likely to kick off in a week’s time after sensitization of local leaders and politicians.

Dr Robert Ongom, the acting District Health Officer (DHO) revealed that, “Girls between the age of 10 and above will be the first targeted.”

Addressing journalists in his office on Wednesday, Dr Ongom noted that before the girls experience sex, they need to be vaccinated in order to adequately protect them from the HPV virus.

The DHO explained that the vaccine works well in young girls who have never had sexual intercourse before.

The first target will be girls who are in Primary Four and later those who have already dropped out of school.

The antidotes have already been delivered to the Gulu District Health Department.

According to a report compiled by Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) an umbrella organization of women in parliament on cervical cancer after cervical cancer screening revealed that out of 5, 500 women who were tested in September 2011 in the country,   more than 300 tested positive.

Ms Santa Alum Ogwang, the Oyam District Women Member of Parliament who is also a member of UWOPA says  that in Yumbe district alone, out of 340 women who turned up for the screening, 53 tested positive for the silent killer.

Ogwang adds that in a similar test in Kumi district where more than 300 women turned up for cervical cancer screening, 70 were diagnosed to be positive to the terminal illness.

She noted the data they are obtaining will help them to lobby government to do more in the fight against the silent killer.

Ms Filda Anicia, the Centre Manager Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) Gulu branch said that at least two in ten women test positive for cervical cancer.

Anicia noted that the disease rarely shows visible signs leading to late diagnosis.

In 2012, the Ministry of Health announced that it will pilot vaccination in 12 districts in a bid to protect women against the terminal disease.

Dr. Prossy Mugenyi, the Programm Manager of the Uganda National Expanded programme on Immunisation (UNEPI) says the ministry is trying out the Human Papilomavirus (HPV) vaccine among young girls in pilot districts of Ibanda and Nakasongola.

Mugenyi says the HPV vaccine is still very expensive but is worth investing in given the future benefits of saving the girls.

Although a vaccine against the virus that causes cancer of the cervix was made available in Uganda two years ago, it is still not accessible at every hospital in Uganda.

The World Health Organization says early cervical cancer has no symptoms, which is why the disease may go undetected for many years.

However, there are some common symptoms of the disease such as continuous vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and pelvic, back and leg pain.

Around 10 percent of women are affected globally by the terminal illness each year.

In almost all cases, cervical cancer is the result of a change in cell DNA caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).