21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016)


HPV, HIV and Cervical Cancer: Leveraging Synergies to Save Women's Lives

July 22, 2016

On 20 July, at the 21st International AIDS Conference, being held in Durban, South Africa, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS launched a joint report, entitled HPV, HIV and cervical cancer: leveraging synergies to save women's lives, as part of the work of the United Nations Interagency Joint Task Force on Noncommunicable Diseases. The report was launched during an informal panel discussion with representatives of UNAIDS, WHO and the International Community of Women Living with HIV, East and Southern Africa, moderated by Ebony Johnson of the Athena Network.

The burden that HIV places on women, particularly adolescent girls and young women from low- and middle-income countries, is compounded by the global burden of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer. Every year more than 260 000 women die from cervical cancer -- approximately 85% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. Women living with HIV have a four to five times higher risk of developing cervical cancer, an AIDS-defining illness that is the second most common cancer among women living in low- and middle-income countries.

HPV is a major contributor to global morbidity and mortality each year, causing diseases that range from benign lesions to invasive cancers. Growing evidence indicates that HPV may also be an important cofactor in HIV acquisition.

Given the association between HPV, cervical cancer and HIV, synergies must be leveraged, and a focused and integrated approach to sexual and reproductive health, and saving women's lives, must be taken.

The launch of the report engaged advocates, activists, researchers, service providers, the United Nations and development partners in a lively and informal dialogue. Princess Tessy of Luxembourg, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Prince Africa Zulu of Onkweni attended the event.


Young women and girls must have holistic health services and heath information that covers all their health needs, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. One good way to deliver this information and these services is to ensure that all girls have access to free secondary education and that schools deliver quality health programmes that include HPV, HIV and sexual health services.

-- Mahesh Mahalingam, UNAIDS

All women need to have simplified information on HPV and cervical cancer to understand the link to HIV. Information and access to integrated services will help prevent these AIDS-related illnesses among women and girls.

-- Thembi Nakambule, director, Swaziland National Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS

Cervical cancer is the most preventable and curable of the many types of cancer if we apply our knowledge about prevention and early detection. However, we are observing a tremendous gap in vital services in low- and-middle income countries, with the consequence of high morbidity and mortality from cervical cancer .We need to pull down the traditional silos of communicable versus noncommunicable diseases and develop synergies to save the lives of women.

-- Andreas Ullrich, Department of Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization

As a mother of four boys and for all girls in South Africa, I am concerned about the sexual and reproductive health of young people. We know that cervical cancer kills, but it is preventable. We need to reach everyone and ensure that young people are at the table of decision-making, because each one has a role to play.

-- Yvonne Chaka Chaka, South African singer and advocate

Related Stories

Persistent HPV Infection May Be Related to Tissue Type in HIV-Positive People
Precancer Changes in Cervix Cells Develop More Often in Women With Than Without HIV
Cervical Lesions in Women With HIV May Point to Developing Anal Cancer

This article was provided by UNAIDS. It is a part of the publication The 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016). Visit UNAIDS' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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