WOMEN living with HIV are more likely to develop cancerous lesions from Human Papillomavirus (HPV), says the Director General at the Ministry of Health, Dr ’Nyane Letsie.
April 8, 2022
2 min read
HIV positive women more likely to develop cancer – Dr Letsie
Director General at the Ministry of Health, Dr ’Nyane Letsie
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She said women living with HIV were particularly vulnerable, as they were more likely to acquire HPV and develop cancer than their HIV negative peers.
According to researches, HPV infection progresses more quickly, is more likely to become cancerous, and less likely to regress in women living with HIV.
While women living with HIV also tend to have cervical cancer at a younger age, they have a more aggressive clinical course, and are less responsive to chemotherapy.
“Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Lesotho and is a leading cause of death among women,” said Dr Letsie.
She said the Ministry of Health was calling on all young girls from ages of nine to 14 to vaccinate for HPV in order to prevent cervical cancer.
The Minister of Health Semano Sekatle said his ministry was going to kick-start a vaccination campaign in schools to vaccinate girls on health days to prevent the spread of cancer. The campaign will start on April 19 in Butha-Buthe.
The cost of treatment of cancer, he said particularly cervical cancer was huge, noting it cost M100 000 for one cancer patient to get treatment in South African hospitals.
Every year, over 600 000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide due to a lack of uptake of screening services including Lesotho.
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Mr Sekatle said approximately 500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in Lesotho.
Of this, he said 346 died in 2020 because they were late for treatment.
He said the HPV would assist the Ministry of Health to prevent cancer and appealed to all Basotho women and girls to ensure they were vaccinated.
In 2009, Lesotho through the Ministry of Health introduced the HPV vaccine provided as a donation by the manufacturer but only a few districts were covered as it is expensive.
However, Mr Sekatle said this year manufacturers had reduced the prices with the purchase of 130 000 doses expected.
Access to specialised care and oncological expertise in Lesotho is limited. In most cases, patients need to be referred to South Africa to get adequate cancer care, which is out of reach of the majority of Lesotho’s rural women, both geographically and financially.