HPV vaccination uptake low in Reg. 6 but Health Ministry hopes to expand treatment

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Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony says not enough people are taking vaccines to protect themselves from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) in Region Six (East Berbice- Corentyne).

“This is something that is totally preventable, this is something we can eliminate from Guyana.

“All it takes is for us to intensify immunisation…. but so far our (vaccination) rates have been quite low, especially in this region,” Dr. Anthony said during a visit to the region on Monday.

He added, “If we are very good at doing this, we can prevent people from getting cervical cancer and we won’t have to do the surgeries.”

As the regional authorities try to get more people vaccinated, five health centres across the region are being equipped with cryotherapy guns to treat HPV infections that lead to the growth of abnormal, cancer-causing cells.

Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells.

The cryotherapy gun (Photo: News Room/ August 14, 2023)

Those infections can be detected through pap screens and visual inspection of the cervix with acetic acid (VIA) testing. And Dr. Anthony explained that cryotherapy can be used to treat abnormal cells detected through VIA testing.

These guns will be donated to health centres found at “strategic points” across the region, the Health Minister said. Orealla and Mibicuri are among the areas targeted.

Regional Health Officer Dr. Vishalya Sharma said nurses at the health centres received training to conduct the VIA testing themselves. That way, doctors or other health officers from the New Amsterdam or Skeldon hospitals no longer need to travel to the communities to do testing.

Based on regional statistics, 321 persons benefited from VIA testing in 2022, 133 in 2021 and 94 in 2020. A majority of the tests were done at the New Amsterdam Regional Hospital.

Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer among women in Guyana.

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