Cervical Cancer screening to be integrated into routine care for HIV patients


Ghana is to commence screening for cervical cancer with the use of Human papillomavirus with Genotyping Polymerase Chain Reaction, HPV PCR. This is the recommended way to screen as it is able to detect the presence of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer

Associate Professor of Medicine, Molecular Microbiology and Virology Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Prof. George Kyei, who disclosed this, said cervical cancer screening with HPV PCR and visual inspection of the cervix can be done the same day. With the possibility of treatment commencing immediately where the precancerous lesion is detected. 

“Cervical screening is not the old pap smear. You cannot implement the pap smear in Ghana for it to be effective. Just because we don’t have the necessary pathologists, we don’t have the Gynecologists to do the sampling and all of that.  In this project, we will use HPV PCR, which is now the recommended way to screen for HPV”

Prof Kyei said this at the signing of an MOU between France and Ghana on Strengthening pandemics in the country under the project.   L’Initiative is a French facility that complements the Global Fund’s work by providing technical assistance and support for strengthening health impact programmes. 

Prof Kyei said under the project, cervical cancer screening will be integrated into routine care of HIV patients. This he said will prevent multiple visits to the clinic, which is a major challenge in cervical cancer care. 

“In other words, the question we will seek to answer is this: when a woman with HIV comes to clinic for routine care, can she get a cervical cancer screening with HPV PCR and visual inspection of the cervix done on the same day, and if there are any precancerous lesion also get treated before leaving clinic? This prevents the need for multiple visits to the clinic, which risk loss to follow up”

He said to ensure the success of the project, the capacity of nurses will be built, adding that already some nurses have competencies in the method to be used under the project. 

“To make this successful, we will need to train nurses in the clinics to do the screening. Thankfully, the CCPTC at Battor has been training nurses for a while in the methods we want to use and they are our partners in this project.”

Adding on, Prof. Kyei said a manual will be put together at the end of the project, as a reference and framework for the national program. 

“We hope to provide evidence that CC screening can be integrated in routine HIV care if nurses are trained to take charge of the screening using validated and simple treatment protocols. This evidence from close to 3000 patients and training over 30 nurses, will be critical information for the formulation of a national program. At the end of the project, we will also provide a manual document that will serve as a reference and framework for national programme”

Prof. Kyei was grateful to Expertise France and L’Initiative for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of women living with HIV in Ghana.   

For his part, Technical Director, Expertise France, Eric Fleutelot, commended Ghana for the giant efforts in cervical cancer prevention and treatment.

“I just learnt this morning that there is a strong probability that you will be able to integrate secondary prevention of cervical cancer among women living with HIV in the activities to be supported by the Global Fund during the next cycle. So far, we have not been able to deliver prevention, secondary prevention and treatment of cervical cancer in all the countries we are working in, it’s a shame and we have to fix that. I’m happy to see that Ghana is at the forefront of this fix.

He said the successful implementation of the programme will be replicated in other countries in a bid to resolve many of the challenges with global health.  

Under the project, the Ghana Health Service will also be supported to deploy National and Regional Interventions that improve access to health services for the most vulnerable in the areas of HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria.