Cancers now account for nearly a quarter of deaths among HIV-infected individuals. There is evidence cancer is overtaking tuberculosis as the leading cause of death in those with HIV.
There are numerous challenges to address cancer, such as delays in treatment, lack of trained personnel, limited follow-up care, and limited patient education. With the number of cancer patients increasing rapidly, it is critical to double our efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment.
The Government of Botswana works closely with the United States National Cancer Institute (US NCI) as well as other partner institutions and universities to tackle cancer. In the past three years, the US NCI funded 12 research grants with sites in Botswana.
The Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute and University of Botswana hold a Regional Center for Research Excellence (RCRE) Grant to examine how to build the infrastructure for breast cancer data collection. In July 2014, a health team from Botswana participated in the US NCI-led Cancer Control Leadership Forum to enhance national cancer control planning.
Technical assistance and collaboration with partners such as Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon (PRRR) are helping Botswana defeat this disease. PRRR works to reduce deaths from cervical and breast cancers, the two most common cancers among women in Botswana.
Since their work began in Botswana four years ago, almost 23,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer. PRRR is working tirelessly to reach 80% of all women between the ages of 30-49 years old. There are currently 23 sites throughout Botswana that offer cervical cancer screening and treatment options.
PRRR also assisted the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) with an assessment of the National Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in 2015. It is partnerships like these that help make real, tangible strides in reducing the cancer burden.
The US NCI
There is a great deal of important cancer work being done in Botswana. Last year Botswana conducted its 2nd Annual National Cancer Symposium.
This was a national-level cancer control planning meeting centered on providing evidence to inform Botswana’s decisions about national cancer screening programs and review tools to assist with planning and prevention.
The Government of Botswana and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation recently announced plans for the first Sub-Saharan Africa children’s cancer and hematology hospital and research centre.
Partnering with Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centre of Excellence, and Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital, the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness broke ground this week on the $100 million medical centre. Of the 40,000 children in Sub-Saharan Africa that are diagnosed with cancer each year, only 20% survive. This facility will provide high-quality care and will help save more lives.
The director of the US NCI’s Centre for Global Health, Dr. Ted Trimble, will be visiting Botswana at the end of February to join Ambassador Miller and other partners in a cancer roundtable event.
The group will highlight the successful efforts in addressing cancer in Botswana while stressing the importance of continuing the fight.
Tune in, get involved and educated, and let us work together to defeat cancer.
*Earl R. Miller is the U.S. Ambassador to Botswana