While HPV vaccines will save lives, target schoolgirls will be hard to reach.
South Africa will become the first African country to pay for cervical cancer vaccines – one of the most expensive immunisations in the world – for schoolgirls in February next year. But experts warn that the health department will face daunting challenges, much bigger than the exorbitant cost of the vaccine.
Cervical cancer, which is caused by the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), kills more South African women than any other cancer, according to the Medical Research Council. Every year about 6000 women, many of whom are HIV positive, are diagnosed with HPV, and at least half die.
South Africa grants almost every patent application it receives, making its patent regime one of the world’s most lenient. While pharmaceutical companies cash in, patients face staggering healthcare costs, and medicines like cancer treatments, third-line antiretrovirals (ARVs) and treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) are often priced out of reach.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in southern Africa, but new research reveals that governments’ attempts to address the disease have been inadequate. Access to cervical cancer screening services is minimal, few countries in the region have policies on the disease, and treatment remains a major challenge.
The benefits of medical male circumcision have been proven to also extend to women. It has been shown that female partners of men who are circumcised have a less risk of contracting the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
At least a hundred protesters arrived at South Africa's parliament on 11 July to demonstrate their disapproval of the ongoing court case by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis against the Indian government over its patent laws. As the case draws to a close, health organizations say a win for the pharmaceutical company will be a loss to the developing world, which sources the bulk of its generic medicines from India.
Novartis approached the Indian government six years ago, seeking to register a cancer drug already commonly marketed under the name Gleevec. The patent was denied and a long-running court battle ensued, but at each step Indian courts have ruled against Novartis and the company has appealed.
FOURTEEN years ago, Kholekile Shasha joined SA’s nascent doctor training programme in Cuba, unaware of how controversial the state-sponsored initiative would turn out to be.
He came from a poor family, and had finished high school in the Eastern Cape with exam results just shy of the grades needed to study medicine in SA. He leaped at the chance of a free education in Cuba.
"I was disadvantaged in terms of colour, and access to education and finance," he says.
Cancer services in Gauteng are facing an emergency with regular reports of broken equipment, drug stock outs, long waiting lists for treatment and delayed diagnosis.
Health-e was given dispensary order forms from Charlotte Maxeke hospital revealing among others that the academic hospital’s oncology in-patient ward 594 was unable to dispense half of the non-chemotherapy drugs and items ordered by the ward due to stock outs.
Campaigning for Cancer (C4C) is now threatening legal action against the provincial and national health departments if matters do not improve by the end of this week.
THE recent report by Statistics SA emanating from last year’s General Household Survey offers welcome respite for Gauteng’s public health system. At the same time, results of this study table some of the hurdles the province still has to negotiate to attain a world-class and seamless health system that will benefit all the residents of Gauteng.
According to the research, 67,4% of respondents in the province said they were very satisfied with the services provided to them during their most recent visit to health facilities and 19,6% said they were somewhat satisfied. Just more than 7% said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.
UN meeting has finally alerted the world to what SA’s medical professionals have long suspected — the burden of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease is as serious a threat as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis to social and economic development.
THIS week’s first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on noncommunicable diseases has finally alerted the world to what SA’s medical professionals have long suspected — the burden of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease is as serious a threat as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis to social and economic development.
Health officials in sub-Saharan Africa are finally focusing on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, having spent much of the past decade concentrating on HIV/AIDS and malaria.
The growth of NCDs in developing countries has gone almost unnoticed, having been largely perceived as a problem affecting affluent countries. But NCDs have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide, with nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).