Haiti has the highest rates of cervical cancer in the western hemisphere. This horrible disease often kills women in the prime of their lives, and has long-lasting effects on their families and communities. In the US and other countries we are successfully reducing the rates of cervical cancer by vaccinating girls (and boys!) against human papilomavirus (HPV). HPV has been proven to be one of the leading causes of cervical cancer, among other types, and preventing infection is the most effective way to prevent cervical cancer later in life.
But the HPV vaccine has rarely been available to women in Haiti, despite the high rates of cervical cancer. Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante ran the first-ever campaign in Haiti in 2009-2010, and is currently conducting a campaign to vaccinate over 27,000 girls in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite regions of Haiti. The HPV vaccine has never been available to girls living in southern Haiti before.
That's why we were so excited to kick off SBHF's first-ever HPV vaccine campaign this week. We're thrilled to be doing a phase-one rollout of HPV vaccine to over 2,500 girls in the Fond des Blancs area. The HPV vaccine is most effective when given in two doses, spaced six months apart, so the campaign will be done in two phases: one this March and again in September.
SBHF's incredible community health team will be fanning out across the Fond des Blancs region over the next couple of weeks to visit schools and vaccinate girls in the target age range. As you can see from the photos below, the team does a great job getting the girls excited about the vaccine, and the opportunity to prevent such a devastating disease. Who has ever seen so many smiles at a vaccination event?!