A bipartisan, private/public effort in the midst of hate speak

KATHY LATOUR
PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
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I am so tired of attack ads – you know the personal assaults on the man instead of talking about issues. So, it was particularly nice to hear about the Republicans and the Democrats doing something together where there were no attacks on the other camp.

The effort I am talking about is the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative, which is directed by Doyin Oluwole, MD, a Fellow of the Royal College of Pediatrics and a Fellow of the West African College of Physicians. She is barely 5 feet tall and speaks softly, but as the executive director of the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative, she is filled with a passion for the women of Africa that is bipartisan and a great example of what a private/public partnership can do when everyone is committed to getting something done instead of playing politics.

In a nutshell, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Initiative is using the infrastructure and resources created by George W. Bush through the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) during his administration to now screen women for cervical cancer and educate them about breast cancer.

And here's the amazing part. To screen for cervical cancer they are using very simple tools that allow healthcare workers to identify precancerous lesions and remove them with cryosurgery in the woman's home or in the small clinics scattered through Sub-Saharan Africa. To detect the lesions the cervix is swabbed with vinegar, which makes precancerous spots turn white. They can then be immediately frozen off with a metal probe cooled by a tank of carbon dioxide.

The procedure is one of a wide array of inexpensive but effective medical advances being tested in developing countries. With a Pap smear, a doctor takes a scraping from the cervix, which is then sent to a laboratory to be scanned by a pathologist. Many poor countries lack high-quality labs, and the results can take weeks to arrive.

For women with more advanced cervical lesions in the Pink Ribbon/Red Ribbon Initiative, they are referred to doctors who can often treat the disease before it becomes lethal. And, with the combined efforts of pharmaceutical partners, the next generation is being vaccinated against cervical cancer so that more might avoid dying of this disease. In addition, the same network is being used to educate women about breast cancer and early detection.

Cervical cancer, which is no longer a major threat in the U.S., is still the most common women's cancer in Sub-Saharan African, and the third most common ailment in females,with 530,000 new cases and 275,000 deaths each year. Dr. Oluwole explains that women with HIV are particularly susceptible to cervical cancer because they are immune suppressed. Despite this, few women are screened for cervical cancer in Africa.

As the first Initiative of the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, the program is truly a public/private partnership with support from the Obama administration, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; Susan G. Komen for the Cure; and the Caris Foundation, which provides pathology training and support tumor profiling and other innovative technologies. Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, the pharma giants donated vaccine to prevent HPV, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation paid for cervical and breast cancer training in community-based treatment support programs.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
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