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Accelerating the introduction of a human papillomavirus screen-and-treat strategy in the Republic of Malawi

U.S. Lead: Dr. Jennifer Tang,, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Malawi Lead: Dr. Luis Gadama,, the University of Malawi College of Medicine
Implementing Partners: Management Sciences for Health, University of Washington, University of Malawi Polytechnic

Blog 1: April 2019

In the Republic of Malawi, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. The country also has the world’s second highest incidence of cervical cancer. These deaths can largely be prevented through regular screening for, and timely treatment of precancerous cervical lesions. This is due in part to limited resources and health facilities that provide screening programs, as well as a shortage of medical providers trained to perform the necessary diagnostic and treatment procedures. There is a critical need to develop innovative technologies and approaches that will increase access to screening and treatment services.

With support from The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and The University of Malawi College of Medicine will lead a consortium of partners to implement a new project in the Republic of Malawi. They will join other consortium partners, Management Sciences for Health (MSH), Malawi Polytechnic, and the University of Washington to evaluate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of integrating a human papillomavirus (HPV)-based cervical cancer screening and treatment approach with voluntary family planning programs in the Republic of Malawi.

This strategy, which empowers women to self-collect samples for HPV testing, will provide HPV-positive women with an opportunity for same-day treatment of visible precancerous lesions. Treatment will be done using thermocoagulation, which is a portable device that uses heat to quickly, safely, and effectively remove affected tissue. To increase access for rural women, this project will offer HPV self-collection in community-based settings. The consortium’s research will build upon a previous UNC study that found that thermocoagulation is safe and acceptable to rural Malawian women when offered in community-based campaigns.

USAID helps developing countries with their journey to self-reliance by strengthening service delivery and higher education institutions’ capacity for research and collaboration, enabling countries to build their commitment and capacity to plan, finance, and implement solutions to their own development challenges. Research can create commercial opportunities for businesses which spur local economies.

Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is a competitive awards program that invites scientists in developing countries to apply for funds to support research and capacity-building activities on topics of importance to USAID and is conducted in partnership with U.S. Government-funded and selected private sector partners. A primary focus of this partnership is leveraging longstanding investments in voluntary family planning programs, as well as other efforts to address cervical cancer, to build capacity in countries to sustainably address the burden of cervical cancer. The program is supported by USAID but implemented by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. For more information please see the PEER website.

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