Costly HPV tests to become free at regional hospitals


Efforts in the fight against cervical cancer in Guyana is expanding and soon the costly test for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) will be made available free at coast at regional hospitals.

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony on Tuesday disclosed that access to free healthcare is paramount and the $25,000 test is mostly conducted at private facilities.

“This year we are also going to introduce HPV testing, right now its unavailable in the public sector, there are some people who are doing it in the private sector but it’s very expensive.

“We want to offer that across the system,” the Health Minister said.

Cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer that affects women; the ministry is now implementing a sensitization campaign aimed at encouraging women to take their HPV vaccine and do regular testing.

Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony at the HPV Scientific Conference. (Photo: Ministry of Health/ February 27, 2024)

Access to HPV vaccines are readily available for persons between ages 9 to 45 but the uptake is low. The virus enters the body through cuts and small tears in the skin and due to persistent HPV infection, the cancer can form. More than 34,000 deaths in the Americas are caused by cervical cancer and to prevent these, early diagnosis is needed.

“If we are able to make early diagnosis then we are able to make early interventions.

“Three weeks ago we opened a pathology lab so you can get back results within 24 hours to four days. Our pathology lab now can do a lot of differentiations and one of the things that we are capable of doing now is that we can take high resolution images of the slides and then that image is sent to a reference centre,” Dr Anthony said.

The process the minister referred to is digital pathology and it allows information to be generated from over networks using specialised digital software applications. The newly commissioned pathology lab is expected to provide faster test results to improve diagnosis time and access to treatment.

The minister also said mammograms, pap smears and other testing for early diagnosis will also be available at the New Amsterdam and the West Demerara Regional Hospitals this year.

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