Access to screening facilities available at existing family planning clinics grows, as cervical cancer cases develop. Anil Tambay, Maries Stopes Tanzania Country Director expressed in Dar es Salaam to acknowledge the culmination of the cervical cancer screening and preventative therapy programme by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
He commented that such family planning programmes were “natural entry points” for preventive measures as both cervical cancer screening and family planning services require a similar target group. He stated, “Family planning integration is an overwhelmingly positive strategy, but it requires robust supervision and logistics systems”.
However, he admitted operational issues did exist. Examples being fragmented funds, faltered coordination amongst clinics and the requirement for standard regular training and supervision of clinical aid providers. This programme was supported by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria to regulate cervical cancer screening and preventive treatment through reproductive health systems from November 2012 to October 2017.
Mr. Tambay said that more than 187,263 women were screened in a time of 23 months in the country, among them 7,783 were discovered positive and 7,602 obtained cryotherapy. Maria Stopes Tanzania is executing the Tanzania programme, alongside Population Services International (PSI) and Chama cha Uzazi na Malezi Bora Tanzania (UMATI).
The Ministry of Health Assistant Director for Reproductive and Child Health, Dr. Hussein Kidanto specified that cervical cancer was a critical public health issue in Tanzania. He said, “Many experts would agree that the high burden of disease and low survival rate among women with cervical cancer in the country is attributed to late disease presentation, diagnosis, and delay in treatment.”
Dr. Kidanto said that cervical cancer could be prevented essentially by raising public awareness, vaccinating adolescent girls of 9-13 years against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is the virus that causes cervical cancer. He said currently there were 466 clinics offering cervical cancer screening and treatment services. These incorporate all provincial, regional, district clinics, some health centres, and dispensaries.